When Prof. Stephen Forrest takes over as the University’s vice president for research, he will inherit a $750 million budget, one of the University’s most influential positions and the reins to one of the largest research operations in the country. An accomplished researcher, Forrest most recently served as a professor at Princeton University, where he conducted his own studies in a branch of physics called optoelectronics, which concerns the meeting of electricity and light.Before that, he taught at the University of Southern California and directed the National Center for Integrated Photonic Technology. He has written 371 scholarly papers and has been granted 134 patents. “Professor Forrest combines an impreswsive record of research achievement with personal, hands-on involvement in the important work of technology transfer and in the administration of major research operations,” University President Mary Sue Coleman said in a written statement. Coleman nominated Forrest to replace longtime vice president Fawwaz Ulaby yesterday. Ulaby will help ease the transition by remaining in his post until the end of the year and then will step down to serve as a professor in the electrical engineering department, as he has for 20 years. If the University Board of Regents approves the nomination, Forrest will take over Jan. 1. “My most important job for a while is to listen,” Forrest said. “I have some very definite directions I want to go in, but I have to get a sense (of the job) first.”He stressed the importance of researchers interacting with the industrial world and the forging of stronger links between separate schools such as medicine, engineering and LSA as a possible future mission. Much of the focus of his new post will be promoting interdisciplinary work, he said. “When you’re really talking about what the next thing is — what the new thing is within a discipline — (the researchers) are the ones who know what they’re doing,” he said. “My job will be to make the connections between the schools and make the whole greater than the parts.” As an example of potential interdisciplinary research, he cited what he calls the two major problems that he expects mankind will have to face in the 21st century: energy and water shortages. To solve those problems, he foresees the coming together of everything from nanotechnology to life sciences. Robert Todd, an associate vice president for research, said Forrest has experience working outside his discipline to solve problems, citing his leadership of an initiative to ensure the health and well-being of human research subjects. “You can’t pick someone in multiple disciplines, so you have to pick a leader,” Todd said. Forrest will split his time between Princeton and Ann Arbor until he takes over. When he comes to stay on Jan. 1, he will bring along his optoelectronic research group, which seeks to create practical optoelectronic devices. No stranger to Ann Arbor, Forrest spent 1973 to 1979 at the University in pursuit of a master’s degree and a doctorate in physics. He received his undergraduate instruction from the University of California at Berkeley.