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Dean Douglas Cavener

Deans Letter - Winter 2019

20 May 2019

Well before globalization became a political phenomenon, scientists around the world engaged in collaborative research to answer their biggest questions: What is the chemistry of life? What are the history and origins of the universe? What forces determine the balance and evolutionary trajectory of nature? Science is unabashedly and by necessity globalized. In this issue of the Science Journal, we highlight two of our current efforts to understand Planet Earth and beyond.

Given our landlocked location, it may surprise you that Eberly Science has a premier research enterprise in marine biology that is focused on understanding coral reefs and their much-publicized precipitous decline around the world. This story, like many in science, starts out with serendipity. In 1990, the biology department hired Charles “Chuck” Fisher, a newly minted Ph.D. marine biologist from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Fisher investigates the physiology of the animals and the ecology of the communities that inhabit cold seeps and hydrothermal vents in the deep sea. His claim to fame includes the discovery of an array of fascinating symbiotic relationships of marine tube worms and the autotrophs that they harbor. The biology department has since hired four additional marine biology faculty—Iliana Baums, Todd LaJeunesse, Mónica Medina, and Roberto Iglesias-Prieto—who investigate the ecology of corals and their algal symbionts. Much of their work has been covered in earlier Science Journal issues, and LaJeunesse’s research is highlighted in this issue.

Penn State may not be the center of the universe, but perhaps nowhere else on Earth has their finger on the pulse of the universe more than Eberly Science. Also in this issue of the Science Journal, we explore the cosmic machinations studied by members of Penn State’s Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos and the University’s globe-spanning Astrophysical Multimessenger Observatory Network (AMON). We highlight the work of this impressive group of faculty and student scientists in our college, who have made pioneering observations of some of the most violent and mysterious events in the universe—including one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the 21st century—and who have been instrumental in bringing Penn State and Eberly Science to the forefront of astronomical discovery.

Because science is global, it is imperative that our students explore opportunities in other regions of the world, including developing countries where the most-pressing problems occur. Our college offers a few courses that provide in-country international experiences, and we hope to obtain additional funds to expand these opportunities in the future. We are also developing a Global Science minor in our college and expect that it will be approved by the University for the 2019–2020 academic year.

I am also pleased to announce a new initiative to improve our faculty teaching. In May 2018, we conducted a week-long evidence-based teaching (EBT) workshop led by Wendy Hanna-Rose, head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and our college’s Center for Excellence in Science Education. This workshop is designed to teach faculty to use active learning and problem-based teaching in the classroom. Thirty-nine faculty participated in the EBT workshop, and our goal is that all our faculty participate in a training over the next few years. Our faculty’s research ranks our college in the top 10 in the nation. It is my conviction that our teaching should as well.

Eberly Science’s reach is truly global. We stretch from University Park to the depths of the South Pacific Ocean and, indeed, into the cosmos through the research, scholarship, and training that our students, faculty, and staff give and receive.

Kind regards,


Douglas R. Cavener
Verne M. Willaman Dean

Dean Douglas Cavener