Karen Plaut, PhD

Executive Vice President for Research, Purdue University
Karen Plaut

Karen Plaut, PhD, became executive vice president for research at Purdue University in January 2023. Overseeing an expanding $600 million research enterprise, Plaut is responsible for university-wide strategic initiatives and bringing together researchers and resources across traditional academic boundaries to drive interdisciplinary discoveries with societal impact.

She joined Purdue in 2010 as associate dean for research for the College of Agriculture and later became dean.

A researcher at heart, Plaut has approximately 100 publications focused on mammary gland biology and has received funding from the US Department of Agriculture, National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Plaut earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Vermont, master's degree from Pennsylvania State University and doctorate in animal science from Cornell University. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Cancer Institute at NIH, she led mammary gland biology and breast cancer research at the University of Vermont, with dual appointments in the department of animal science and the department of pathology in the College of Medicine.

Plaut then joined NASA and served as lead scientist for International Space Station Biological Research project working with engineers to build life science habitats for zero gravity. Space shuttle mission (STS-70) included her research investigating changes in mammary metabolism in rats.

Following her NASA appointment, she returned to the University of Vermont as chair of the animal science department and then became chair of animal science at Michigan State University before joining Purdue University.

Driving excellence in research and among researchers features strongly in Plaut’s leadership style to bring breakthroughs that matter to society.