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Susan Birren appointed next dean

Biology professor succeeds Adam Jaffe as head of College of Arts and Sciences

Published: June 18, 2011
Section: News


Professor Susan J. Birren of Biology and Neuroscience has been appointed Dean of Arts and Sciences by President Frederick Lawrence and new Provost Steve Goldstein, completing a months-long search for the top two academic administrators at the university.

Birren will succeed Dean Adam Jaffe, who will return to the economics department, effective July 1.

“I’m totally excited to accept the position,” Birren said in an interview with The Hoot, adding that “the challenge and promise of doing this is that I can really help to foster research and education for the liberal arts.” Both Birren and Goldstein, a medical doctor, have backgrounds in the sciences and each have committed publicly to disciplines outside their own as they take over the helm of “the liberal arts university.”

“I wouldn’t be in this job if I wasn’t excited about the scholars and the scholarship of my colleagues and the diverse undergraduates” on this campus, Birren said, and “it has been my great pleasure to interact with colleagues across many disciplines and programs and I am consistently amazed and inspired by their creative and scholarly work.”

Goldstein, also interviewed Friday, said that Birren was chosen among a field of “extraordinary” candidates.

“Susan is thoughtful and insightful, and while she has applied that in her own scholarly work to the sciences, she brings that same thought and commitment [now] to lead the interdisciplinary work” of the dean, he said.

Birren joined the Brandeis faculty as an assistant professor of neurobiology in 1994, having since been tenured and chair of the university’s Committee on Centers and Institutes, under the office of the provost. According to the search committee, all top candidates for dean were current faculty members, but Birren was chosen for her distinguished experience.

Birren holds a Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry from the University of California-Los Angeles and did post-doctoral work at the CalTech, where she studied the cellular and molecular mechanisms of the development of the mammalian nervous system.