RIO Leadership Team

Joanne Billings

Associate Vice President for Research Integrity and Compliance

(612) 624-0999,

Joanne oversees critical research integrity and regulatory functions of the Institutional Review Board (IRB), the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), and the Office of Biotechnology Activities Oversight (OBAO). This position also serves as the University’s research integrity officer and deputy institutional official and has responsibility for ensuring that the institution fosters a research environment that promotes a culture of compliance, the responsible conduct of research, and research integrity and actively discourages research misconduct. In addition to her role serving the internal research community, Joanne works closely with external regulatory agencies and accrediting organizations to facilitate required and voluntary reviews of UMN research policies and processes.

Joanne holds a joint appointment between the Research and Innovation Office and the Medical School where she serves as associate professor of Medicine and as a pulmonologist and critical care physician focusing on the care of people with cystic fibrosis (CF). Billings, who also oversees the Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine (PACCS) Division clinical research program, has been involved in clinical trials in CF for over 20 years.

Joanne holds a BS in biochemistry from Illinois Benedictine College, an MD from Rush Medical College, and a MPH in epidemiology from the University of Minnesota.

Thierry Boudet

Executive Director - Organization Optimization & Research Systems

(612) 624-6560,

Thierry brings strategic vision and provides expert leadership to boost service quality, organization efficiency, and technology effectiveness in RIO. He leads organization optimization efforts, information technology, and the research systems function for RIO. His team specializes in identifying, implementing, and sustaining technology solutions, and delivering insight from large data sets to support the University's research mission. A change leader and innovation catalyst, Thierry orchestrates strategic goal-setting processes, oversees the conversion of objectives into actionable plans, and designs and implements solutions to solve complex business problems. He is passionate about leadership, technology, innovation and creativity. He holds an MS in management of technology from the UMN Technological Leadership Institute, and a masters degree in music composition from the University of Rennes 2 (France).

Kristin Charles

Finance Director

(612) 624-0664,

Kristin is responsible for the financial oversight of RIO and manages a team that provides expertise in financial analysis, budgeting, and transaction processing for both administrative support units and academic centers and institutes. RIO's finance team ensures compliance with University policies and procedures and provides high-level reporting and analysis to assist units in achieving their strategic goals. Kristin has worked at the University for over 12 years. She holds a BS in finance, a BA in Spanish, and an MBA, all from the University of Minnesota.

Debra Dykhuis

Executive Director - Human Research Protection Program/Institutional Review Board

(612) 626-4851,

Debbie is responsible for leadership of the Human Research Protection Program office, home to the Institutional Review Board, the Quality Assurance program for human research, the scientific assessment process, and the regulatory ancillary review process for Food and Drug Administration regulated research. Prior to assuming the HRPP executive director role in 2012, Debbie spent 20 years in roles supporting biomedical researchers at the University. She holds a BA from the University of Minnesota.

Megan Ferden

Human Resources Director

(612) 624-7921,

As HR director, Megan is responsible for providing strategic leadership, planning, development, coordination, implementation, and oversight of human resources programs and services in RIO. She oversees a dedicated RIO HR Shared Services team. RIO HR works collaboratively with RIO administration, business units, and academic centers and institutes to ensure their efforts are aligned with University-wide human resources policies, programs, and strategic initiatives. Megan has been at the University of Minnesota for 18 years and with RIO for 14 years. She holds a BA from Doane University and is a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Senior Certified Professional.

Laura Fingerson

Assistant Vice President for Research and Chief of Staff

(612) 626-1361,

Laura oversees RIO operations and assists the vice president for research and innovation with a broad spectrum of executive responsibilities and commitments, including determining the strategic direction for the office and planning, coordinating, and implementing the research agenda. Laura serves as an important liaison with University leadership staff and offices, and more broadly, oversees RIO stakeholder management of a variety of internal and external constituencies, often serving as a representative of the VP. Laura collaborates with key stakeholders to ensure RIO operations serve the needs of the University research community in an effective and efficient manner. She also directly oversees operations in: human resources, communications, and VP administrative support.

Laura has held numerous leadership roles in higher education administration and has a strong background in institutional evaluation and effectiveness. Prior to coming to the University, Fingerson served as vice president for enterprise analytics and insights at Strategic Education, where she led academic and business analytics teams providing quantitative and qualitative research and solutions-oriented strategic planning for Capella University and Strayer University. While at Strategic Education, Laura also developed and led Capella University’s Institutional Effectiveness team, using change management techniques to design and implement new methods of evaluation, continuous quality improvement, data-informed decision-making, external benchmarking, and measurement. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota, her master’s and PhD at Indiana University, and was an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Dan Gilchrist

Communications Director

(612) 624-2609,

Dan leads RIO’s communications department, which plans, coordinates, and implements communications strategies that highlight the role the University plays as one of America’s leading research universities, including its work to understand and address the COVID-19 pandemic, and its contributions to economic development and technological advancement. He advises the vice president for research and innovation and his executive leadership on communications and government relations and assists with issue management related to research for RIO and the University. He previously served the University as a speechwriter to two presidents, federal relations coordinator, and Extension program coordinator. He holds two policy-related degrees from Stanford University.

Rick Huebsch

Associate Vice President, Technology Commercialization

(612) 625-3760,

Rick Huebsch serves as the senior leader responsible for the overall strategic direction, management, and administration of the technology commercialization and venture operations for the five University of Minnesota campuses and the University’s collaborative research centers throughout the state. Rick also oversees personnel and financial operations of the Tech Comm organization, including a new gap funding initiative that he has helped to formulate and the University’s Discovery Capital investment program. 

Rick also provides leadership in partnering with the University of Minnesota Foundation on the Corporate Engagement Center. He serves on the Launch MN Advisory Board for the State of Minnesota and maintains robust partnerships with many Minnesota-focused organizations, including the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), Medical Alley, Greater MSP, MNSBIR, and the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship.

Before joining Technology Commercialization in 2008, Rick worked for 20 years in the software industry, including executive management with Control Data, OpenVision Technologies, Veritas Software, and Symantec. Rick received a BS in computer science and mathematics from the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse.

Amy Kircher

Associate Vice President, External Affairs and Strategic Initiatives

(763) 370-9042,

Amy directs RIO's external affairs and strategic initiatives, including engagement with national labs and security concerns, government and public institutions, corporate entities, and international bodies. She co-founded and now oversees the Strategic Partnerships and Research Collaborative (SPARC), which works with researchers and practitioners to establish new large-scale programs that catalyze collaboration, innovate for new discoveries, and deliver practical new solutions. She also leads Research Advancement, which provides seed and matching funds for promising UMN research directions, as well as recognition for research staff and research that has had real-world impact.

Prior to coming to the University, Amy was an epidemiologist with the Department of Defense and has an extensive background in public health, disaster preparedness and response, homeland security, and supply chains. Amy received her PhD in public health at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Units & Initiatives

  • Research Advancement
  • Strategic Initiatives
  • External Research Partnerships
  • UMN Research Funding Programs

Kim Kirkpatrick

Associate Vice President, Infrastructure and Interdisciplinary Institutes and Centers

(612) 625-2046,

Kimberly (Kim) provides leadership in development, enhancement, management, and review of academic institutes and centers that report to RIO. She also supervises RIO-managed research infrastructure and resources including the Research Animal Resources facilities and Biosafety Level 3 program. She more broadly oversees University shared research resources, core research services, and related infrastructure. She emphasizes initiatives that enhance interdisciplinary collaborative funding and research opportunities between the health sciences and other units across the UMN system. 
Prior to coming to the University, Kim was a Distinguished Professor of Psychological Sciences and Director of the Cognitive and Neurobiological Approaches to Plasticity Center at Kansas State University. She has served as the PI on over $30 million in extramural grants from the National Institutes of Health and other agencies. Her primary line of research examined the neurobiology of impulsive behaviors in rodents. She has 12 years of experience directing animal facilities and over 30 years of research experience with preclinical animal models.

Units & Initiatives

  • Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) Program
  • Center for Transportation Studies (CTS)
  • Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP)
  • Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences
  • Institute for Social Research and Data Innovation (ISRDI)
  • Institute on the Environment (IonE)
  • Research Animal Resources (RAR)
  • Research Infrastructure Investment Funding
  • The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota
  • University Core Facilities and Services
  • University of Minnesota Genomics Center (UMGC)
  • University of Minnesota Press

Danielle Rintala

Director - Risk Intelligence and Compliance Team

(612) 624-8349,

Danielle directs the Risk Intelligence and Compliance Team (RIACT) in RIO. RIACT serves as the "eyes and ears" of the VP for Research and Innovation by monitoring near- and long-term research risks, conducting compliance investigations, ensuring compliance in research-associated financial transactions and research registries, and managing Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training and the Certified Approver program. Prior to joining the University of Minnesota, Danielle was the associate director of research compliance and biosafety officer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she developed and managed the biosafety program. She was also responsible for the oversight of human subjects research, animal research, and radiation safety. Prior to research compliance, Danielle was an instructor and program director for 10 years in higher education, with teaching experience in microbiology, anatomy & physiology, biochemistry, and pathophysiology. 

James Wilgenbusch

Director - Research Computing

(612) 624-1355,

James (Jim) is responsible for the strategic direction and leadership of major computational research areas, including the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute (MSI) and U-Spatial. In this role, he leads University-wide initiatives, partners with collegiate senior administrators and works with faculty and administrators to shape research computing at the University of Minnesota, ensures the excellence of existing activities, and facilitates the implementation of new programs. Jim is also involved at a regional and national level in the promotion and development of research cyberinfrastructure and plays a variety of roles in organizations such as the Coalition for Academic Scientific Computation (CASC), the Campus Research Computing Consortium (CARCC), and the National Science Foundation’s Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs. Jim maintains research activities in the study and implementation of models, methods and software used in phylogenetic inference, and leads efforts to develop cyberinfrastructure for biological research and research and engineering in general. Jim earned his PhD at George Mason University. More information about Jim is available on his ORCHID profile.

Pamela A. Webb

Associate Vice President

(612) 624-1648,

Pamela is responsible for pre-award and post-award nonfinancial services supporting nearly $1 billion in research awards annually, as well as negotiation of facilities and administrative rates, effort reporting, and research policy and education. Prior to joining the University of Minnesota in 2007, Pamela led pre-award and post-award administration at Stanford University, and served in research administration at UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and Northwestern University. In August 2016, she received her industry’s highest honor, the Outstanding Achievement in Research Administration Award. She is a leader in national research organizations, including the Council on Government Relations, and holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin.

Units & Initiatives

  • Cost Analysis
  • Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA)
  • System Campus SPA Offices