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After six years, the title of Associate Dean of Natural Sciences is being passed on to Larry Gladney , the current chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

As associate dean, Gladney will oversee the Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy, Earth and Environmental Science, Mathematics, Linguistics and Psychology departments , in addition to a number of research centers.

Gladney is also the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor for Faculty Excellence and a professor of education in the Graduate School of Education.

Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Steven Fluharty announced the new appointment early last week, and Gladney will take over his new position starting July 1. The initial appointment is for a three-year term, but many have served multiple terms, Fluharty said in an email.

Gladney is succeeding Richard Schultz, the Charles and William L. Day Distinguished Professor of Biology.

“This is a very important time for the Natural Sciences in Penn Arts and Sciences, and Larry’s vision, energy and leadership will be essential for our continued success,” Fluharty said. “I am confident he will navigate us through a difficult federal funding climate and strengthen our collaborations within SAS and across the University.”

Schultz said that Gladney immediately came to his mind as a potential successor because of his talents and previous experience. “A chair is a very obvious person to do [this job] because they’re having to deal with the issues that associate deans have to deal with on a smaller scale,” he said.

Gladney said that his responsibilities will focus around coordinating the resources for the individual departments, advising the University on emerging trends in the natural science fields and “[lowering] the barriers for the cross-disciplinary interactions.”

“You can’t have interdisciplinary research if you don’t have the foundations very solid,” he said.

Schultz added that the natural sciences in particular need a lot of support in terms of infrastructure, like laboratory facilities, equipment, supplies for experiments and funding for postdoctoral research.

More specifically, Gladney intends to continue the strategy of “cluster hires,” which looks for “scholars who don’t have a particular perfect niche within any one department, but who have research that is of interest to several different departments,” he said. This technique makes it easier to facilitate interdisciplinary research in areas like evolution or energy.

He also plans to find ways to help faculty incorporate their own research into their classes and wants to focus on more local engagement, particularly in the context of the Penn Compact 2020, a long-term vision for the future of the University.

After receiving his doctorate in physics from Stanford University, Gladney came to Penn to start his postdoctoral work in 1985. He has been a full professor at the University since 2005.

Gladney will continue to teach his academically based community service course, “Community Physics Initiative” in the fall, in which Penn students teach physics to local Philadelphia high school students. He said his teaching schedule for the spring semester is still undetermined.

Schultz is confident that Gladney’s skills and understanding of the workings of the institution will make him very successful in his new role. “Going forward, not only are the natural sciences in good hands — I would say they’re in better hands,” he said.

A previous verison of this article incorrectly stated that Gladney has been a full time professor at the University since 2005. He has been a full professor, which is an academic rank, since 2005. The DP regrets the error. 

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