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Provost Robert A. Brown has named Professor Robert J. Silbey, director of the Center for Material Science and Engineering (CMSE), to be the interim dean of science, effective February 1.
"Bob brings to the position of interim dean the wisdom of his years of service as head of the Department of Chemistry and as director of CMSE. Over the next months, he and [outgoing Dean of Science] Bob Birgeneau will work well together so that there is a smooth transition in the daily governance of the School," the provost said. Professor Silbey will serve until a new dean of science is selected and in place at MIT. Dean Birgeneau is leaving MIT after this term to become president of the University of Toronto.
Dr. Brown added, "I am confident that the School of Science will be in good hands during this important period for the School and MIT."
"I look forward to working with the department heads and lab directors to ensure a smooth transition," Professor Silbey said.
Dean Birgeneau added, "I am really delighted with the appointment of Bob Silbey as interim dean of science. Bob and I have been personal friends for a long time, and he and I have worked well together both in Science Council and in CMSE. Bob has excelled in education, research and administration. He is deeply committed to both excellence and diversity. I am confident that his appointment as interim dean will ensure a smooth transition."
Professor Silbey was head of the Department of Chemistry from 1990-95, and has been director of the CMSE since 1998.
He received the School of Science Teaching Award in 1986, a Graduate Student Council Teaching Award in 1988 and the Everett Moore Baker Award for Undergraduate Teaching in 1991. He was again recognized for his teaching in 1996, when he was named a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow.
Professor Silbey holds the BS (1961) from Brooklyn College and a PhD (1965) from the University of Chicago. He came to MIT as an assistant professor in 1966 after a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin. He was promoted to associate professor in 1969 and to professor in 1977. In 1989, he became the Class of '42 Professor of Chemistry, a chair he still holds.
His research interests are theoretical chemistry, in particular the electronic and optical properties of polymers, spectroscopy of molecules in solids and gases, and the dynamics of highly excited molecules. In 1973 and in 1986 he was a visiting professor at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Utrecht. In 1983 he was visiting professor at the Laboratoire de Spectrometrie Physique, Universitï¿½ de Grenoble. In 1997, he was named Kramers Professor at the University of Utrecht.
Professor Silbey has held many fellowships and received several awards. From 1968-70 he was an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and from 1971-76 he was a Camille Dreyfus Foundation Teacher-Scholar. From 1972-73 he was a John S. Guggenheim Foundation Fellow.
Professor Silbey has been a visiting lecturer at a number of universities including the University of Illinois, the University of Bayreuth in Germany, the University of Texas, the University of Rochester and the University of Tel Aviv. In 1988 he received the Senior Scientist Award and in 1992 the Max Planck Award, both from the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung.
He has been advisory editor for the Journal of Chemical Physics, the Journal of Physical Chemistry and Chemical Physics Letters. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 26, 2000.