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  • Credit: Verity Smith
04/17/2014 14:35:06

John Dabiri Named Dean of Undergraduate Students

Starting on July 1, 2014, John Dabiri, professor of aeronautics and bioengineering, will serve as Caltech's dean of undergraduate students.

"John is particularly committed to enhancing faculty-student interactions. His experience as chair of the faculty and as faculty in residence in Avery House make me confident he will do a great job," says Anneila Sargent, vice president for student affairs and the Ira S. Bowen Professor of Astronomy.

The role of dean of undergraduate students is to foster academic and personal growth through counseling and support for student activities as well as act as a liaison between students and faculty.

"I've been fortunate to interact with Caltech undergrads as a visiting SURF student, a graduate student, and as a professor," says Dabiri. "Those experiences have proven to me that the creative and maverick spirit that is the Caltech brand really begins with our undergrads, and I look forward to helping nurture that spirit."

Dabiri says that his first order of business as dean is to engage students in a conversation about their experience on campus.

"I'm looking forward to visiting each of the houses this term to solicit their feedback on student life at Caltech," says Dabiri, who lives with his family in Avery House as faculty in residence.

He also wants to include former students in talks about how to improve undergraduate life at Caltech.

"Our alumni provide a longer-term perspective that will be a valuable complement to student input, and I hope they won't be shy in providing it," says Dabiri. "I also want to challenge our esteemed alumni and other friends to invest the time and resources needed to ensure that the student experience at Caltech is unparalleled in terms of the opportunities it affords for academic and personal development."

He cites greater exposure to entrepreneurship and the arts as examples of important complements to the existing Caltech education.

Dabiri, who is currently chair of the faculty, will take the reins from Rod Kiewiet, professor of political science, who began his term as dean of undergraduate students in July 2011.

"It's essential that we continue the important work Dean Kiewiet has initiated in developing a comprehensive social safety net within the house system," says Dabiri. "I'm also eager to receive the recommendations of the ongoing ad hoc committee on undergraduate self-governance, which should provide our students with greater opportunities to develop leadership skills through management of the houses."

Dabiri received his undergraduate degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University in 2001. He earned both his MS ('03) in aeronautics and PhD ('05) in bioengineering from Caltech, joining the faculty upon completion of his doctoral studies in 2005. A 2010 MacArthur Fellow, he is director of Caltech's Biological Propulsion Laboratory.  

Written by Katie Neith