Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost Alivisatos named president of the University of Chicago

February 26, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

I am both saddened and thrilled to inform you that Paul Alivisatos, our executive vice chancellor and provost, has been chosen to be the next president of the University of Chicago. I can think of no one better suited for this extraordinary opportunity, and no one who will be harder for us to replace. Paul has been an extraordinary partner; a tireless, visionary leader; a friend; and a true champion for Berkeley’s mission, values, and academic excellence. Paul will be with us until the end of this semester, and we will, as quickly as possible, launch a national search for his successor.

As it happens, this transition represents a homecoming of sorts for Paul, who was born in Chicago and received his B.A. from the same university he will soon lead. But Paul’s ties to our campus run just as deep. He first came to UC Berkeley as a graduate student in 1981, went on to get his Ph.D. here in 1986, before joining our chemistry department’s faculty in 1988. 

During his 33 years on the Berkeley faculty, Paul made groundbreaking contributions to the fundamental physical chemistry of nanocrystals, which today are used widely in research, including biological imaging, and consumer electronics. His academic achievements have been widely recognized. Paul is, among other things, the recipient of the National Medal of Science and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.

Paul has exhibited the skills and personal attributes of which great leaders are made. After serving as the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from 2009-2016, he joined the campus administration as UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for research in 2016, and then, in 2017, he accepted my invitation to be the executive vice chancellor and provost.

In those roles Paul initiated a review of campus research units, institutes, and centers; fostered new faculty connections for interdisciplinary research through the creation of Berkeley Collaborative Research Opportunities; helped foster and oversee the creation of our newest academic division, Computing, Data Science, and Society; and helped launch the Weill Neurohub with UCSF and the University of Washington and the creation of the new Bakar BioEnginuity Hub, which will occupy the fully-renovated former art museum space. He co-sponsored the wonderful efforts to expand and enhance the discovery experience for undergraduates; played a key role in enhancing and expanding diversity on campus through faculty cluster hiring and his support for the Faculty Leadership Academy; and led an all-encompassing effort to swiftly and effectively adapt Berkeley’s entire educational enterprise to the needs and demands of remote learning.

This description of Paul’s service and contributions only scratches the surface. You can read more about his career, accomplishments, and honors here: https://news.berkeley.edu/2021/02/26/paul-alivisatos-named-president-of-university-of-chicago/.

What these biographical details don’t fully capture is Paul’s decency and dedication, creativity and wisdom. We came into our respective offices in the midst of a campus financial crisis, which soon gave way to the unprecedented challenges the pandemic has presented. As we scrambled to respond and adapt nearly every single aspect of the university’s academic and administrative operations, Paul remained throughout an invaluable source of wise analysis, calm counsel, and flexible thinking. He is as adept at tracking and managing nuanced, operational details as he is when it comes to seeing and understanding the big picture.

When I invited Paul to become executive vice chancellor and provost, I told him we would be “two in a box,” meaning we would share responsibility for leading the campus. And that is exactly what our relationship proved and needed to be. I have been around higher education long enough to know how rare it is to sustain a professional relationship like that, and how it is rarer still to find someone, like Paul, with all of the requisite experience, skills, and personal attributes to make that sort of partnership possible. I am in Paul’s debt, as are we all, and I wish to express my sincerest gratitude and appreciation for everything he has done and contributed to the campus and the greater good. I offer him our best wishes for his continued success in the Windy City.

Carol Christ

This message has been sent to all UC Berkeley faculty, staff and students.