New dean to coordinate growth of science departments

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Amber Miller / Photo: Diane BondareffThe University has created a new administrative position, the dean of sciences for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, to help manage the growth of its science departments.

Amber Miller, a Columbia astrophysicist, was appointed to the post effective March 1. She previously served on the Arts and Sciences academic review committee, faculty budget group, space planning committee, and executive committee of the faculty.

Miller says that her job is to work with the University’s top academic officials to ensure the success of several large, interdisciplinary science initiatives while not shortchanging any other science programs.

“I’m going to work with the senior leadership to make science stronger across Columbia,” says Miller, who is the Walter LeCroy Jr. Associate Professor of Physics. “We are going to take a good look at the needs and priorities in the basic sciences and get a sense of what we need to do to improve our ability to get things done around here.”

Columbia’s science departments are entering a period of considerable growth and transition. This past winter, for instance, many biologists, chemists, physicists, and engineers started moving into the 14-story Northwest Corner Building. This building, when fully occupied, will house 21 laboratories for projects in areas such as nanotechnology, biochemistry, biophysics, and biological imaging. Columbia is also building a new neuroscience facility in Manhattanville, the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, where researchers from a wide variety of disciplines will study how the brain’s mechanisms relate to memory, language, and emotion.

For these types of interdisciplinary programs to succeed, Miller says, there must be increased communication across Columbia’s academic units. “I’m going to be talking regularly with my counterparts outside of the Arts and Sciences departments, such as at the engineering school and the medical campus,” she says, “to make sure these projects are getting the right resources.”

Miller says she will be advocating to senior University officials on behalf of all the science departments within Arts and Sciences. To this end, she will be speaking regularly to science department chairs and forming a new faculty committee to understand the needs and priorities within the basic sciences.

“We’re going to make sure that all departments thrive and grow as the new interdisciplinary programs move forward,” says Miller. “We want to make sure that every department has its needs looked at fairly, and that no program gets lost in the shuffle.”

In her own research, Miller leads a NASA-funded project that aims to capture snapshots of microwaves emitted shortly after the big bang. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and recently served as the chief science adviser to the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau.

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