University of Wisconsin officials announced the selection of a search and screen committee for the director of the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery, which is less than one month from its Dec. 2 grand opening.

The new building being constructed on the 1300 block of University Avenue will house the public research enterprise of WID and the private section, Morgridge Institute for Research.

UW officials announced the establishment of the search committee Friday, and Dean of the Graduate School Martin Cadwallader said the committee already met once. The deadline for nominations and applications is Jan. 15 and applications are already being expected, Cadwallader said.

The list of candidates is expected to be short, Cadwallader said, but those who need to visit UW will do so and interviews will be conducted once the pool is narrowed.

Cadwallader said he hopes to have a permanent director chosen by early spring or late summer 2011.

Within the institute, researchers are working on five different themes, which were competitively selected; living environment, epigenetics, systems biology, tissue engineering and computer optimization, interim director and former UW Chancellor John Wiley said.

The new director will be responsible for supporting these five research teams, running the budget, fundraising and helping the research teams get federal funding for their projects, Wiley said.

“Everyone working in the institute is aware that what we do in the lab needs to eventually improve peoples lives,” Wiley said. “We can’t let our work die, we need to get it out into use.”

Because the goal of WID is to foster research in the five selected areas, Cadwallader said the permanent director needs to keep that in mind while moving WID forward.

“The new director has to be a leader and have a vision for the future,” Cadwallader said. “They need to understand what we’re supposed to do – improve lives.”

Wiley said his biggest challenge involved choosing the five research themes, which took one year. Once that task was completed, fine tuning the building has been his main focus.

The permanent director though, will have a new host of challenges to deal with and Wiley said the new director needs to be able to keep up with the pace.

“In research there is no natural upper limit to the amount of money you need,” he said. “No matter how much you have you can always do more, better, faster.”

A permanent director was not chosen initially because UW wanted to wait until the construction finished, Cadwallader said.

Cadwallader said he hopes the new director will build on the strong foundation of the previous two interim directors.

Wiley said WID will foster innovation, especially because of the advances already being made in the five research areas.

“All of our research themes have to potential produce a revolutionary breakthrough,” said Wiley, “I don’t know which (research theme) will come first or be more memorable, but I guarantee we will produce it.”

Following the selection of a permanent director Wiley said he plans on retiring, which will include traveling with his wife and working in his metals shop.