August 31, 2005
SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. -- Sean Decatur, Marilyn Dawson Sarles, M.D. Professor of Life Sciences and Professor of Chemistry, was named to the newly created position of Associate Dean of Faculty for Science. "Sean will take on an increasing role in ensuring our excellence in science and mathematics and in helping us decide how to best allocate our resources," said Mount Holyoke Dean of Faculty Don O'Shea. The position, formerly the Director of the Science Center, will be a half-time position filled by faculty members on a rotating basis.
"I'm excited about working closely with faculty, staff, and departments on ways in which the College can support the curriculum and research in the sciences. The construction of the science center has created physical adjacency among the science departments, and this allows for much closer cooperation," Decatur said. "My role is to facilitate that cooperation whenever possible." Decatur will oversee the allocation of resources, space and budget as they relate to the sciences, in addition to managing the science center.
Completed in 2003, the College's new $36 million science center was designed to foster greater interaction among departments and encourages collaborative research and innovative teaching methods. The new facility offers adjacent labs and offices and shared equipment for students and faculty with overlapping research interests. "We are now in a better position to take advantage of synergies, whether it's departments working together in summer research programs, writing grant proposals for shared equipment, or experimenting with new curricular activities," said Decatur.
Crossing the boundaries of biology, chemistry, and physics, Decatur's work looks at how chains of amino acids transform themselves into three-dimensional proteins. Mishaps in that protein-folding transformation are linked to diseases such as mad cow and Alzheimer's. Decatur's research has been supported by over a million dollars in grants, including an NSF CAREER Award. He is a superb teacher at all levels of the chemistry curriculum and is an innovator in curriculum development for science and nonscience students alike. His many initiatives include a series of talks on race and science and a course exploring ethical, social, and political questions about such topics as bioengineered food and gene therapy.