In the meantime, Duncan decided to go into academic administration. In 2002 he became the associate dean for research at the U.N.M. College of Arts and Sciences, and then a few years later, when the University of Missouri–Columbia (Mizzou) announced that it was looking for a new vice chancellor for research, he seized the opportunity to move back to the state where he had grown up.
What he's doing now: Duncan started his new job last fall. "I'm extremely excited by our program here," he says, and by his three goals: He wants Mizzou to gain a large share of the market for the isotope molybdenum 99, used in many medical procedures. (The university currently sells other radioisotopes to the pharmaceutical industry, and he thinks they could get into the molybdenum 99 market.) He also wants to build a program in translational medicine—the application of basic science to medical products and services—as well as create collaborations between the veterinary and medical schools to advance health care for humans and animals.
"I'm not in any way less enthused about my own physics," Duncan notes, but he thinks these are areas where the University of Missouri can be distinctive and interact more with the commercial markets.
An interest in such broad collaborations and the ability to communicate both with academics and private sector players is why he was selected for the job, says Mizzou Chancellor Brady Deaton, who helped hire Duncan. "He could take the most theoretical concept and very quickly get down to the practical implications of it," he says. "That was very impressive to us."
That ability is also earning him some calls from various media outlets. Recently, Duncan was interviewed by CBS's 60 Minutes for an April 19th segment on cold fusion—that widely debated but so far elusive low-temperature physics concept that's back in the news again.