COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As Ohio State University awaits its new president, the man holding the position temporarily also has tasks ahead of him.

Incoming OSU President Ted Carter will begin in his new role on Jan. 1, after finishing his tenure at the University of Nebraska. A Rhode Island native and decorated combat veteran, Carter will bring decades of military experience, thousands of hours in flight and years of working in higher education.

However, the university’s board of trustees also picked Dr. Peter Mohler, chief science officer of Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, as the school’s interim president. Mohler was tasked with easing the transition for Carter to take over for recently departed president Kristina M. Johnson.

Mohler spoke one-on-one with NBC4 anchor Jerod Smalley, telling him that he’s staying in constant communication with the incoming president ahead of his arrival.

“We do speak at nights, we speak on the weekends,” Mohler said. “He’s very interested in some of the top key areas that the state of Ohio is interested in. Things like economic development, the impact of our students from all 88 counties, and what we’re doing for the state.”

Alongside his role at Wexner Medical Center, the interim president has also maintained his role as vice president of research, innovation and science for the university. With noteworthy developments in Mohler’s wheelhouse, Carter and OSU could be well-positioned to make large strides in the field of science.

“In the last year and a half, Ohio State has gone from 25th in the country in research and development dollars, to 12th. This year, we’ll likely be in the top 10,” Mohler said. “Those discoveries shouldn’t just sit on a shelf, they should be impacting patients’ lives.”

The search for a new athletic director

While the university just recently filled its vacant presidential seat, it still has to find a replacement for athletic director Gene Smith, who announced in August his plan to retire after 18 years.

OSU plans to launch its search to replace Smith soon, Mohler said. However, the interim president noted that a final decision wouldn’t come without Carter in place as the permanent president.

“Gene Smith is an institution, and there will be no replacing Gene Smith,” Mohler said. “With that said, what an attractive job … We know that the whole field of college athletics is changing, and so we’re really going to look for someone that is able to handle those pivots, and make sure that Ohio State continues to be a leader in this field.”

Partnering with Intel

Mohler said he’s also ramped up the school’s partnership with Intel, as the company builds a multi-billion-dollar semiconductor fabrication plant in New Albany.

“We meet with them every two weeks now,” Mohler said. “This is unheard of in academia. It’s a partnership that really shows us how it can be done, and really the impact we’ll see in Ohio for many, many, many generations.”

Once Carter takes his seat at OSU, Mohler told NBC4 he will transition back full-time to his roles at Wexner Medical Center and in university research efforts.