Update - Dean of Division of Mathematical & Physical Sciences

September 10, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to let you know that Frances Hellman has decided to step down as the dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences on June 30, 2021. Frances has been elected to serve as president of the American Physical Society, the premier professional society of physicists – a four-year commitment which she commenced this year in her role as vice president.  We congratulate her on this tremendous honor and thank her for her transformative leadership and invaluable contributions over the past six years.

During her tenure as dean, Frances has fostered and built upon the excellence of the division, while also continuing her own active research and teaching. She has recruited and retained world-class faculty from diverse backgrounds by overseeing a large number of exceptional new faculty hires and playing a vital role in retaining top faculty. She also elevated the teaching mission of the division, increasing support for graduate students and for undergraduates, championing effective and unbiased teaching evaluation practices, supporting remote learning and student engagement programs, and growing key STEM programs with campus partners such as the university's STEM public education program, Science@Cal, and its STEM teacher-training program, CalTeach

Under Frances’s leadership, research support, revenue generating activities, and philanthropic support all increased significantly. Frances worked tirelessly in support of the common good and collaboratively engaged with several significant campus initiatives including the Data Science Initiative and formation of the new Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society as well as creating a cluster hire approach for Quantum Information Science. She has also been a strong advocate and supporter of the campus’s relationship with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, helping develop and support several key partnerships in physical sciences.

In the next academic year, Frances will continue to lead the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, supporting the Division’s research and teaching missions and moving several key initiatives forward to completion. She will complete the design of an innovative new strategy for teaching of STEM gateway courses to improve the student lower division STEM experience and will implement recommendations of her Task Force on Undergraduate Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Advancement, including creation of an MPS Scholars program. She will launch the newly NSF-funded national Research Exchange project to increase diversity at postdoctoral and faculty levels in STEM disciplines, and will support and guide the division as it engages constructively to increase equity, diversity, and a sense of belonging for faculty, students, and staff.

I realize that this leadership transition adds uncertainty to an academic year that already brings with it lots of unknowns. Please be assured that the Chancellor and I are committed to the success of MPS and stand ready to do what we can to ensure continuity of strong leadership for the division. Although search timelines often do change, we aim to post the dean position in the fall and conduct interviews in the spring.

For those of you interested in learning more about the dean search process, I would like to draw your attention to our dean searches FAQ, which, we hope, anticipates and answers many of your questions about the process. If you have other questions about the search, feel free to reach out to Dana Jantz, our dean search coordinator, at jantz@berkeley.edu


A. Paul Alivisatos

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost