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Chemical engineering professor appointed associate provost

Karen K. Gleason ’82, a chemical engineering professor, began her appointment as associate provost last Monday.

The appointment was announced by Provost Martin A. Schmidt PhD ’88, who wrote in an email that he was “thrilled” and that her significant industry experience would help in “strengthening MIT’s industrial engagements.”

As associate provost, a position in the Institute’s senior leadership, Gleason will oversee space planning and renovations at MIT.

She succeeds Schmidt, who as associate provost worked with the MIT Investment Management Company on plans to build office buildings and commercial labs on the easternmost parts of campus — MIT’s chunk of Kendall Square.

Schmidt became provost after Professor Chris Kaiser left the role to return to research, which top administrators typically have little time for.

Gleason said she will still be able to work with her lab. “I love my research on chemical vapor deposition of organic surfaces and plan to continue this effort with the outstanding group of seven graduate students, seven postdocs, and several UROPs that I am fortunate to advise,” she wrote in an email.

But Gleason also said she was “excited and honored” to take on her new role and saw her new responsibilities — campus planning, renovations, and industry ties — as “essential pillars that support MIT world-leading research and educational efforts.”

Her new role will additionally allow her “to tour many more of the less visited corners of the amazing MIT campus,” she wrote. “I still vividly remember taking a tour of the steam tunnels as a freshman.”

Gleason holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in chemical engineering from MIT, as well as a doctorate in chemical engineering from Berkeley.

She has been a member of MIT’s faculty since 1987. “Karen’s pioneering research in chemical vapor deposition (CVD) of polymer thin films makes it possible to fabricate novel organic surfaces and devices,” Schmidt wrote. She holds 18 patents related to this research, according to MIT.

Gleason is also a co-founder of GVD Corporation, a Cambridge-based R&D company that specializes in ultra-thin coatings used in various industries.

—Leon Lin