Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen

Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen is the Vice Chancellor for Research at UNC-Chapel Hill.
(Megan Mendenhall / Office of Research Communications)

We are excited to announce that following a national search Penny Gordon-Larsen, PhD, who has served as interim vice chancellor for research since March of last year, has accepted the position on a permanent basis, effective immediately.

Gordon-Larsen is a transformational leader and has served in academic and scientific administration roles at Carolina and across the broader scientific community for many years. She has deep experience creating and leveraging collaborative, interdisciplinary research teams to develop new initiatives and build partnerships across diverse constituents to advance knowledge and drive innovation.

As vice chancellor for research, Penny is responsible for the oversight of Carolina’s $1.2 billion research portfolio, including managing the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Research’s 1,482 employees, an annual budget of approximately $100 million and 13 research centers and institutes. She also oversees developing strategic research priorities for the University, managing proposals and awards, providing research infrastructure, identifying and managing funding opportunities and developing collaborative research teams and partnerships.

During her interim tenure, she expanded critical areas of research administration, laid the groundwork for research ecosystem improvements and helped initiate planning and design for the new Translational Research Building. In addition, she expanded capacity to support applied and translational research and convergent science and provided leadership for large grant proposals.

Gordon-Larsen is the Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition in the Department of Nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She joined Carolina in 1998 as a postdoctoral researcher at the Carolina Population Center and the nutrition department.

Prior to assuming leadership of the OVCR, she served as associate dean for research at Gillings where she expanded research operations yielding increases of 61% in award funding, 23% increase in awards received and 17% in success rate from 2019 to 2022. She is also a research fellow within the Carolina Population Center where she works with collaborators to understand, prevent and treat obesity and its associated cardiometabolic diseases in populations across the world.

Penny is an internationally recognized leader in her field. She has directed a National Institutes of Health-funded interdisciplinary research program for more than 20 years, receiving more than $23.6 million in funding from the agency as the principal investigator of many research projects. She also leads the UNC Obesity Hub, which consists of a diverse group of 27 researchers from nutrition to medicine to data science who work collaboratively to solve the challenges of obesity. The Hub has successfully secured an additional $13 million in extramural funding since receiving initial seed funding from the Creativity Hubs initiative in 2018.

Among many contributions she has made to her field, Penny has served as president of the Obesity Society and served on key panels at two presidential national conventions. She just completed a term on the advisory council of NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, holds membership in the Obesity Society, serves as Carolina’s appointee to the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the American Association of Universities’ Chief Research Officers committees and holds many regional board appointments.

Gordon-Larsen has an undergraduate degree in anthropology and experimental psychology from Tulane University and master and doctorate degrees in physical anthropology, with a focus in human biology, from the University of Pennsylvania.

Please join us in congratulating Penny on her appointment. We are grateful for the exceptional leadership she has provided to the research community during the past year and know she will continue to advance Carolina’s impressive research enterprise.


Kevin M. Guskiewicz



Christopher Clemens

Provost and Chief Academic Officer


Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

Visit our communications and marketing team page.
Contact sphcomm@unc.edu with any media inquiries or general questions.

Communications and Marketing Office
125 Rosenau Hall
CB #7400
135 Dauer Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7400