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Tracy Langkilde named dean of Penn State’s Eberly College of Science
24 August 2020
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Tracy Langkilde
Tracy Langkilde has been named Verne M. Willaman Dean
of the Eberly College of Science. Credit: Patrick Mansell

Tracy Langkilde, Penn State professor and head of the Department of Biology, has been named the Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science, following a national search. Langkilde will begin her appointment on Oct. 1.

Langkilde succeeds Dean Douglas R. Cavener, who is stepping down as dean to continue teaching and research full time in the Department of Biology.

"I am so pleased that Tracy will succeed Doug as dean of our Eberly College of Science,” said Nick Jones, Penn State executive vice president and provost. “As an accomplished leader, professor and scholar in the college, she is known for her commitment to excellence and to the success of students, faculty and staff. It’s an honor to appoint someone of Tracy’s caliber to elevate the college’s already exceptional teaching and research programs."

Langkilde joined the Penn State faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology in 2007, and in 2016 she became head of the department.

As department head, she provides leadership to the department’s 100+ faculty, 15 administrative staff, and 120 postdoctoral and graduate students, and oversees an educational program engaging more than 10,000 undergraduates. During her tenure she supported faculty research excellence, partnering with colleges and institutes to hire in strategic areas, secure new research facilities, and increase the visibility of research accomplishments. She worked with her team to advance equity, inclusion and diversity in the department, restructuring recruitment processes to help reduce built-in inequities and offered training and education in bias and mental health advocacy. 

Langkilde held a Tombros Administrative Fellow for Undergraduate Research in the Eberly College of Science in 2014, where she developed initiatives to more effectively engage undergraduates in research.

“The complex challenge of leading the college through the next decade excites me,” said Langkilde. “My vision as dean of the Eberly College will be a continuation of my vision as department head — to work together to elevate the reputation and impact of our scientific community, achieve excellence in innovative research and teaching, help build public understanding and trust in science, and foster a diverse, inclusive and supportive community where all contributions are valued.

“What I find so rewarding is being able to support meaningful change, to empower our students, faculty, postdocs and staff to reach their fullest potential and achieve their goals,” she added. “I want to help them explore different avenues to success and support them in bringing their amazing ideas and initiatives to reality. 

“A successful college relies on the success of its people. I am ready and eager to begin our work together, and to help navigate as dean.”

Langkilde has published more than 100 refereed journal articles and book chapters, and given numerous invited talks in the United States and internationally. Her research focuses on how animals deal with changes in their environment and the associated stress; for example, the introduction of a new predator species, or human-induced disturbances like road noise. She currently examines how invasive fire ants impact the behavior, morphology and physiology of native lizards across multiple time scales, and the consequences of evolutionary response of native species to these novel selective pressures. 

As principal investigator at the Langkilde Lab, housed in the Department of Biology, Langkilde heads a team of students and faculty who take an integrative approach incorporating field and lab observations and manipulations, with a focus on reptiles and amphibians. In addition, Langkilde has taught several undergraduate and graduate-level courses and has advised and mentored more than 60 undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

Among her multiple honors, in July 2019 Langkilde was named Distinguished Herpetologist by the Herpetologists' League, an international organization of people devoted to studying herpetology — the biology of amphibians and reptiles. In 2016 she was included as a featured researcher in “Campbell Biology,” one of the most widely used biology textbooks, now in its 11th edition and available in 19 languages. In 2011 she received from Penn State the Edward D. Bellis Award in Ecology for dedication to educating ecology graduate students. 

Langkilde received her bachelor's degree in tropical biology at James Cook University in 1999 and doctoral degree in biology at the University of Sydney in 2005. She was a Gaylord Donnelley postdoctoral fellow at Yale University from 2005 to 2007. 

As dean of the Eberly College, Langkilde will serve as the college’s principal academic and administrative officer, reporting directly to the executive vice president and provost of the University. She will oversee the college’s eight research centers and institutes and seven academic departments, which offer 16 undergraduate, 11 master’s and seven doctoral degree programs. Through in-residence, blended, and Penn State World Campus online offerings, the college enrolls approximately 3,500 undergraduate and 700 graduate students, with more than 600 full- and part-time faculty and 280 staff members.