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Dean's Message

Dean CavenerOver the last few months, I have had the opportunity to immerse myself in our college community and promote our mission. I am struck by the passion that our faculty and students have for learning, discovery, and problem solving; the dedication of our hard-working staff in keeping the college running efficiently and in collegial manner; and the engagement and generosity of our science alumni.  

My transition has not been the only one in recent months; we have recruited, hired, and also shifted some of the best faculty and staff into pivotal roles that will help the college succeed in achieving its strategic objectives

We have a great foundation on which to build future success in the college. As the new dean, I will continue to reach out to our college community as we build and shape the future of our college. Please join me in transforming the Eberly College of Science to achieve its full potential as a vibrant and diverse scientific and educational community that is internationally renowned for excellence, and for improving the world through its discoveries and solutions to life’s most pressing challenges.

Douglas R. Cavener
Dean, Eberly College of Science


Where we are and where we are going

In the past five years, we have expanded and enhanced opportunities for our undergraduate students through educational and co-curricular improvements.  By building a stronger sense of community in the college, enabling and encouraging more students to participate in long-term study abroad and other international academic experiences, and improving our academic programs—in part by introducing new modes of teaching and learning, providing more and better career information and advising, and increasing the number scholarships available, among other things—our college has worked to improve the academic experience and better prepare students for their future in a changing global economy.

We are attracting more students and a more diverse group of students. Undergraduate applications to the Eberly College of Science have increased by 75 percent over the last ten years; enrollments increased by 23 percent in the same timeframe.  Over that time, applications from underrepresented minority students increased by over 105 percent, and their enrollments have shown a similar increase.  Underrepresented minority students constitute 15 percent of the students who will matriculate in the college this coming summer and fall.

The most dramatic change in applications over the last ten years is the more than eight-fold increase in undergraduate applications from international students.  International undergraduate applications went from just a few percent to over 20 percent of the college’s total undergraduate applications, even as the total number of applications grew, and international students now comprise just over 10 percent of the undergraduates enrolled in the college.  This dramatic increase in applications from around the world is testimony to Penn State’s increasing visibility as one of the world’s great research universities.

We are continuing to develop our strategic plan for the next five years.  In the process, we have identified three key themes: enabling research of the highest caliber in the physical, life, and mathematical sciences; elevating the quality of our undergraduate and graduate educational experiences to the level of our research; and increasing our impact on society through better translation of our research.  We are working to identify specific initiatives in each of these areas so that we can position our college to improve the world through our students, discoveries, and outreach. 


About Dean Cavener

Doug Cavener began his academic career at Vanderbilt University as a faculty member in the Department of Molecular Biology. In 2000, he moved to Penn State to become the department head of Biology. During his tenure as department head, the biology department has expanded its research and teaching in neuroscience, ecology, plant biology, evolutionary biology, infectious disease dynamics, and genomics. Since 2012, Cavener also has been an adjunct professor of life sciences at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology in Tanzania. As a researcher, Cavener is focused on the regulation of metabolic and neurological processes that are particularly prone to maladaptation that lead to diseases such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, he is leading a team of scientists to sequence the genome of giraffe for the purpose of determining the genetic basis of giraffe’s unique morphology and turbocharged cardiovascular system.