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Professor Alice P. Gast, associate chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, is looking forward to joining the MIT community as vice president for research, associate provost, and the Robert T. Haslam Professor of Chemical Engineering.
"I'm very excited about joining the excellent faculty at MIT," she said after her appointment was announced by Provost Robert A. Brown on June 29. "The intellectual energy and passion is evident whenever I talk to an MIT colleague; it will be a privilege to become a part of this team.
"I am also extremely happy to be taking on an administrative role in such an exciting place and time. I think that this is an opportune time to be promoting interdisciplinary research in such an inventive university. I'm looking forward to working with the deans, president and provost and their staffs to help foster the most productive and stimulating atmosphere for the high caliber research that goes on at MIT."
Professor J. David Litster will continue to serve as vice president and dean for research until Professor Gast arrives on campus.
"Alice is a renowned researcher, scholar and educator and a tremendous advocate for research," said Provost Robert A. Brown in announcing the appointment, which is effective in the fall. "She will add a wonderful perspective to the leadership of MIT in these and other important areas."
Gast will coordinate policy regarding research and graduate education and oversee the Institute's large interschool laboratories. She will work with Brown in coordinating these areas through the budgeting process and through the planning, assignment and utilization of space at the Institute. She also will report to Chancellor Phillip L. Clay on matters of graduate education policy.
"Alice Gast has the ideal background, interests and skills to foster interdisciplinary research at MIT," said President Charles M. Vest. "Her own work has been at the interface of science and engineering, and she has thought deeply about how to create supportive environments and facilities for faculty who want to pursue research and education that cross traditional boundaries. I very much look forward to working with her."
Gast, who joined the Stanford faculty in 1985 after earning the Ph.D. from Princeton University, is an expert on complex fluids and colloids. Her research explores the frontiers of the chemical physics of colloidal and polymer solutions, polymer adsorption and most recently proteins, using experimental scattering methods and statistical mechanics.
Chevron Professor Robert C. Armstrong, head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, said, "We are extremely delighted to have Alice join the department. She is one of the world's leading experts in complex fluids and colloids, and indeed, one of the world's leading and most exciting chemical engineers. She is well known to all of us in the department, and she will be a valued colleague."
Gast has been a notably effective teacher at Stanford and is the co-author of a classic textbook on colloid and surface phenomena. Her achievements have been recognized with an array of honors, including a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award and the Allan P. Colburn Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. She was elected to the National Academy of Engineering this spring.
"It hasn't been easy for me to leave Stanford and all my wonderful colleagues and students," she said. "I had the best of times there and hope I've left a positive imprint on those I have taught and worked with. My career benefited greatly from the tremendous support of my department and school. I look forward to building the same collegial relationships at MIT."
Gast was the valedictorian of the Class of 1980 at the University of Southern California when she received the B.Sc. in chemical engineering. She went on to earn an M.A. (1981) and Ph.D. (1984) from Princeton. She is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the American Physical Society.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 18, 2001.