Dr. Erich Baker Reflects on 21 Years at Baylor

Researcher helped start Bioinformatics major, served as Professor of Bioinformatics and Chair of Computer Science Department, then as Interim Dean during the 2022-23 school year. Baker also was a faculty member in Baylor’s Institute of Biomedical Studies. He and his wife, Dr. Lori Baker, served on the National Campaign Steering Committee for Baylor University’s Give Light Campaign.

June 1, 2023
Erich Baker

At the last School of Engineering and Computer Science Board of Advocates meeting, Dr. Baker reflected on his 21 years with Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.


It seems like a few minutes sometimes, and some days it feels like it’s been 50 years, but today, it feels like a long time. When my wife and I came to Baylor 21 years ago it really was a missional calling for us. We wanted to be at a Christian school. We wanted to engage in research. We wanted to touch the lives of students. And Baylor gave us that opportunity.

I remember after my first visit to Baylor I told Lori my concern about coming to Baylor – I was working at the U.S. Department of Energy at the time and we were the first class of researchers Baylor hired in 2002 –  was that Baylor would never get all the way to being a research university. Maybe they would get halfway and then somehow change their minds. And one could imagine at the time how easy it would be to not finish or succeed in that goal. They could get fatigued, administrations could change and shift focus, or they could decide that it cost too much money. Or maybe the faculty at Baylor would outright reject the idea.

There was a lot of fear and unknown about changing Baylor from primarily being a really good Christian-based liberal arts-focused undergraduate institution, to also becoming a research institution. That was my fear, but after prayer and discernment we felt called to be part of that effort.

But it wasn’t until about ten years ago when I started taking on leadership positions that I really recognized how delicate that situation really is. Positioning an institution from a teaching school to a research university is a nontrivial path, to say the least. One can’t push forward on all fronts simultaneously.

Baylor did a good job thinking about their priorities: to be a good research university, we need to hire good researchers. It seems pretty easy on the surface, but how do you get good researchers? You need good facilities. You need a good reputation. You need world-class graduate and undergraduate students. It’s not like we could build a parallel campus to Baylor and then cut the ribbon and all move over there. We had to do it while we were teaching students and maintaining all the hallmarks of the Baylor experience.

So, in the last ten years, I’ve really appreciated how far we’ve come, and the complexity of advancing on different fronts somewhat simultaneously. Sometimes we focus on research a lot, sometimes we focus on capital projects, development, but it all had to happen with many different facets intertwined with each other while you struggle with the chicken or the egg problem.

And so, I’m happy to stand here 20 years later and say Baylor didn’t stop halfway. We made it to being a research university. And we’re here at a level where Baylor can keep pushing forward. During my year as interim dean, we started to think about the places where we can move forward and prepare Dean Daniel Pack to take over as the School of Engineering and Computer Science, which is well positioned to keep growing –to be an inspiring, equipping place for our students – and to continue to be at the forefront of research and innovation at Baylor that, ultimately, helps people and makes the world a better place.

Dr. Baker’s last day as interim dean was May 31, with Dr. Daniel Pack starting as Dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science beginning June 1, 2023. Baker is now Vice Provost for Research and Strategic Initiatives at Belmont University.


Dr. Erich Baker’s research on several large, distributed informatics and data mining projects has been pivotal in establishing best practices in multi-domain data integration and distributed collaborations. A sampling of past coverage of his work:


On the impact of data sciences research at Baylor

Studying Alcoholism and PTSD

Creating database to identify bodies of immigrants attempting border crossings

Understanding local behavior related to COVID-19

Revolutionizing Patient Care

Patenting algorithm to discover peptides using only genomic sequence

Healthy building design

Treating PTSD