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Dear Friends of the College

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Dear Friends of the College

Dean Douglas Cavener.

17 October 2018

 

Students and faculty are the heart of the University, and the stories in our Science Journal focus on what they accomplish together. The rest of the University—including its administrators and its staff—supports and promotes those interactions, and although we rarely recognize their efforts, they can have a profound impact and often make a crucial difference in our success. Dan Larson, our former dean of 16 years, led us to be among the top ten science colleges in the nation. As the department head of biology through most of Dan’s tenure as dean, I can attest to how his support and counsel allowed the biology department, and the other departments in the college, to increase in stature and accomplishment.

Often, university leadership is likened to parallel positions in businesses and corporations. However, I believe that these analogies don’t recognize the fundamental difference between education and business. Graduates are not products. The activities of the students and faculty are not dictated by the administration. The faculty and students do not serve me, as the dean; I serve them. I liken my job to that of a coach or general manager of a professional sport. I and the college’s administrators and staff all work to promote the highest level of success of our team players: the students and faculty. Recruiting and retaining the best players occupies a considerable amount of our time and effort, as it does in professional sports, and the competition is intense. Our most important responsibility as college administrators and staff is supporting basic services and innovations in educational and research programs for our students and faculty, and we have been blessed with more than 250 exceedingly talented individuals who are committed to their success.

One of these individuals is Charles (Chuck) Fisher, Eberly Distinguished Senior Scholar, who served as the associate dean for graduate education in the college until stepping down from this position earlier this year. Chuck led our efforts to institute a new program in graduate mentoring and professional development that has been the model for the entire University. Under his leadership as executive director, the Millennium Scholars Program has expanded to include all five of the Penn State STEM colleges.

Andrew (Andy) Stephenson, Distinguished Professor of Biology, has served with extraordinary distinction as the associate dean for research and innovation for the past seven years. Andy’s stewardship of the research enterprise is a key reason our college has continued to grow in prominence. Among his many accomplishments, Andy started the Office for Innovation (O4I) to promote translation of our faculty’s discoveries into new products, capture intellectual property, and drive entrepreneurship. Moreover, Andy has negotiated agreements to obtain much of the instrumentation highlighted in this issue of the Science Journal; hence, he is also its guest editor.

Success in modern science is largely driven by new technologies and instrumentation that allow us to probe questions we once thought unanswerable. A prime example is gravitational waves, predicted in 1915 by Albert Einstein, who famously proclaimed that this prediction would never be tested. Two years ago, a group of scientists including our own Chad Hanna and B.S. Sathyaprakash proved Einstein’s prediction correct and his proclamation wrong. Key to this success were the advanced detectors at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), capable of measuring fluctuations in space-time 10,000 times smaller than an atomic nucleus.

This issue of the Science Journal highlights the instruments and technologies that are enabling researchers at the Eberly College of Science to answer some of the most profound and intriguing questions in science, which will bring new insights and the translation of basic science for the common good.


Kind regards,

Douglas R. Cavener
Verne M. Willaman Dean