Western alumnus named new vice-president (research)

John Capone has been named Western’s new vice-president (research). The Western graduate and current dean of McMaster University’s Faculty of Science begins Oct. 1.

“For me, this is an outstanding opportunity to be with a world-class university that has a clear vision to be a global leader,” Capone said. “I am keenly excited about getting started. Western has great momentum, and I am jazzed about coming there to be part of the team.

“I have a strong affinity for Western and, for me, it feels like coming home.”

Capone earned a BSc in Biochemistry from Western in 1978 and a PhD in Biochemistry from McMaster in 1983.

From 1983-86, he was a Medical Research Council of Canada Centennial Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He returned to McMaster as an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry in 1986 and was promoted to professor in 1995. Capone became Department of Biochemistry chair in 1997 and was appointed McMaster’s Faculty of Health Sciences associate dean of research in 2000. He was appointed dean of McMaster’s Faculty of Science on in 2005.

“This is a key appointment at a period in Western’s history when we are determined to increase the impact and profile of our research activities on a national and global scale,” said Amit Chakma, Western’s president and vice-chancellor. “John brings a broad scope of relevant experience and the personal attributes needed to provide leadership in this critically important portfolio and we look forward to welcoming him to the London community as a key member of Western’s senior administrative team.”

An award-winning scholar, Capone’s primary research interests focus on molecular studies of gene control and protein function in metabolic regulation and hormone action, as related to viral infections and diseases such as cancer.

“Western has a great cohort of investigators, professors, staff and support systems in place that puts it on the pathway for excellence and really pushes its research agenda to be among the top in Canada and the world,” he said. “The opportunity to foster areas where Western has global prominence, as well as foster other emerging areas, is something that is very exciting.”

Capone sees Canada as well-positioned for an uncertain future.

“We have punched above our weight. Canada has made some very progressive investments in research over the last decade that have helped us enhance our research presence globally and our impact, and also in achieving the country’s goals in terms of economic impact and prosperity,” he said. “This is in clear recognition that knowledge creation at universities is foundational to economic and social growth in our communities and country. It is very gratifying to see research’s positive impact on the daily lives of people being recognized.”

In areas where “it can make a difference,” Capone said partnerships between the public and private sector and universities are key to being globally competitive and maintaining relevance. However, not all research needs to lead to a patent.

“Thoughtful understanding of complex issues comes from research in social science and humanities that embrace critical thinking,” he said.

Friends and family who had attended Western spoke highly of the university, selling the young Capone on traveling west to attend Western in 1975. “Western was my top choice,” the Hamilton native said. “It was a natural for me to be drawn there.”

Upon arriving, he found a welcoming campus, one focused academically and socially to his interests. He still boasts “fond memories” of his undergrad days. But he admits his homecoming will be to an entirely different campus.

“In ’78, it was a very regionally focused university, but that was a different time,” he said. “The accountability and expectations now for universities is much more significant than it used to be. Restructuring the purpose of the university is critically important, and Western is at the forefront of that.

“With the right leadership and right support systems in place, and the right culture and attitude, which is all there at Western, it is just a matter of pushing the envelope. I think Western is going to be the top university in Canada. I want to be part of that.”

Capone described research as “the cornerstone of internationalization.”

Capone replaces Ted Hewitt, who left the position in January to pursue his personal research focused on Brazil at the national level. Janice Deakin, provost and vice-president (academic), has been serving in an acting role since.

The vice-president (research) oversees Western’s departments of Research & Development Services, Animal Care and Veterinary Services, Research Accounting, Research Ethics, as well as Research Park and WORLDiscoveries.