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Silbey Named as Interim Dean of Science

By Dana Levine

Professor Robert J. Silbey takes office as Interim Dean of Science today, replacing Robert J. Birgeneau.

Silbey was appointed by Provost Robert A. Brown after Birgeneau resigned to become President of the University of Toronto. Birgeneau will leave MIT to assume his new position in July.

“Bob Silbey is an outstanding faculty member, a world-class researcher, and an experienced administrator,” said President Charles M. Vest.

Silbey has extensive experience

Silbey came to MIT in 1966 and has served as Professor of Chemistry for the past 34 years. In 1989, he was appointed as the Class of ’42 Professor of Chemistry, a position which he still holds.

Silbey is currently the head of the Center for Material Science Engineering, and he served as head of the Chemistry Department from 1990 to 1995. He received the School of Science Teaching Award in 1986, a Graduate Student Council Teaching Award in 1988, and was named a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow in 1996.

Silbey described his long years at MIT as his principal qualification for being appointed to the position of interim dean.

“I think that it will be a comfortable fit,” Silbey said.

Vest described Silbey as being “ideally suited to provide leadership and continuity to the School of Science.”

Silbey anticipates a smooth transition, and he does not foresee big changes in the way which the Department of Science is run. “I’ve worked with Bob Birgeneau for 10 years and known him for 25. We pretty much see eye-to-eye,” Silbey said.

Replacement search continues

Silbey, who will serve as dean until a replacement can be found, believes that the search for a new dean will take between six months and a year. Birgeneau will serve as an adviser to Silbey until he leaves in July.

Brown has recently appointed an advisory committee to search for a new permanent dean of science. “The interim appointment was made with no prejudice for or against Professor Silbey as a candidate,” Vest said.

For at least the first four or five months of his tenure as interim dean, Silbey plans to maintain his position as director of the Center for Material Science Engineering. “Fortunately, there is not a lot of administrative work to be done at the Center this semester,” Silbey said.

“I look forward very much to working with him as a member of the Academic Council,” Vest said.