I recently announced that I will step down as dean of the Eberly College of Science, and as I plan to return to research and teaching and pass the mantle of dean to another science leader, I want to thank Penn State for the privilege of working with some of the world’s leading life, physical, and mathematical scientists. I am continually in awe of their ability to achieve significant scientific breakthroughs on everything from finding cures to complex diseases to locating planets and solar systems outside our own galaxy.
The research we do here in Eberly Science is inspiring, but we take an equal amount of pride in training the next generation of scientists to push further the discoveries of today. Each year, the college attracts the best and brightest undergraduate students the nation—and indeed the world—has to offer. This is humbling, but equally so are the lengths to which our faculty go to create a learning environment where every student can actively engage in doing science.
The faculty's commitment to elevating teaching and to integrating teaching and research to enhance learning, discovery, and problem-solving continues to strengthen. We have integrated active learning strategies into most of our foundational undergraduate courses, and as a sign of the importance that we give to quality of our teaching, the college now has a senior associate dean for instruction and curricula to further drive instructional innovation.
An aspiration that deserves continued attention is the diversity of our student body and faculty. My personal goal has always been to elevate the careers of women in science. I believe that unless we ensure equal race, gender, and sexual representation at the lab bench we will be missing out on the diversity of perspectives that can be brought to bear in science. One example of this is the Science Achievement Graduate Fellowships we award to doctorate-seeking students who are interested in the advancement of women in the sciences and related fields. This is one way to create opportunities for women in STEM, but more can be done.
As I prepare to return to full-time research and teaching with the Department of Biology, I can say that the Eberly College of Science is on a strong foundation for the next dean to take to new heights. I have immensely enjoyed my work with our students, faculty, and staff, as well as the college's alumni and friends and the broader University administration, as dean of the nation's best college of science.
I look forward to supporting my successor, to fully engaging with our exceptional students, and to continue to learn, discover, and contribute to solving the most challenging problems.
Douglas R. Cavener
Dean, Eberly College of Science
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.