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New Provost Named

June 28, 2017


To:The Caltech Community
From:Thomas F. Rosenbaum
Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and Professor of Physics
Date:June 29, 2017
Re:New Provost Named

I am delighted to announce that David Tirrell, the Ross McCollum-William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and the director of the Beckman Institute, will succeed Edward M. Stolper and become Caltech's tenth provost, effective October 1, 2017, pursuant to Board of Trustees approval.

Dave joined Caltech's faculty from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1998, served as chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from 1999 to 2009, and has been the director of the Beckman Institute since January 2012. Known for a broad perspective on and deep understanding of Institute endeavors, Dave's own research bridges chemistry, biology, and materials science. He focuses on the genetic code and how modifying the molecular machinery of the cell might lead to new approaches in macromolecular design, protein evolution, biological imaging, and proteome-wide analysis of cellular processes. In recognition of his significant contributions, Dave is one of 19 individuals who have been elected to all three National Academies: Science, Engineering, and Medicine. He has received numerous accolades from professional societies and universities around the world.

I am grateful to the provost search committee, chaired by Barbara Wold, Bren Professor of Molecular Biology, which consulted widely with faculty, students, and staff across Caltech to identify candidates and to report their insights into the state of the Institute. Barbara was joined by Woody Fischer, Professor of Geobiology; Thomas Palfrey, Flintridge Foundation Professor of Economics and Political Science; Thomas Prince, Ira S. Bowen Professor of Physics, JPL senior research scientist, and director of the W. M. Keck Institute for Space Studies; Sarah Reisman, Professor of Chemistry, executive officer for chemistry, and Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator; and Kerry Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics and executive officer for Applied Physics and Materials Science.

Prior to joining Caltech, Dave earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a PhD in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts. After a brief time at Kyoto University, he joined Carnegie-Mellon University as an assistant professor of chemistry in 1978. Six years later Dave moved back to the University of Massachusetts, where he served as the Barrett Professor of Polymer Science and Engineering and director of their Materials Research Laboratory.

At this time, I should like to thank Edward M. Stolper, William E. Leonhard Professor of Geology and Carl and Shirley Larson Provostial Chair. Ed has served as Caltech's provost since 2007, demonstrating his unflinching commitment to research and education and his resounding dedication to the Institute and its values. He will return full time to the faculty.

During his decade of service, Ed worked tirelessly with division chairs to appoint, cultivate, and retain the best faculty; scrupulously managed the Institute's budget, including the travails of the 2008 economic downturn; engaged wholeheartedly in the preparation, launch, and conduct of Break Through: The Caltech Campaign; and served as interim president in academic year 2013-14. Ed served as chair of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences from 1994 to 2004 and as interim provost in 2004.

Ed's research interests center on studies of the origin and evolution of igneous rocks on the earth and other planets using experiment, theory, and field studies. He maintains a strong relationship with JPL and NASA, which includes his participation on the science team of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, for which he is past project scientist. An acclaimed researcher, Ed received the Roebling Medal in 2017, the highest honor given by the Mineralogical Society of America, which recognizes "scientific eminence as represented primarily by scientific publication of outstanding original research in mineralogy." In 2012 he received the V. M. Goldschmidt Award from the Geochemical Society, the highest award of the international geochemical community. This spring, a new mineral, stolperite (an alloy of metallic aluminum and copper from the Khatyrka meteorite), was named in recognition of Ed's contributions to petrology and meteorite research.

Please join me in congratulating Dave on his new position and in expressing to Ed our appreciation for his extraordinary service.