News

Ulysses J. Sofia Appointed W.M. Keck Science Department Dean

CLAREMONT, California - April 7, 2017

Dr. Ulysses Sofia

Dr. Ulysses J. (UJ) Sofia has been named as dean of the W. M. Keck Science Department, the integrated sciences department for Claremont MeKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges, effective July 1. As dean, he will hold the title of Weinberg Family Dean of the Keck Science Department.

Sofia will lead the expansion of W.M. Keck Science Center, which emphasizes interdisciplinary study and research and provides next-generation scientists the opportunity to engage in groundbreaking research with accomplished faculty in a liberal arts setting. Sofia is currently associate dean for research at American University.

“Dr. Sofia is a highly regarded teacher, researcher, and administrator who is especially well-qualified for this role,” said Amy Marcus-Newhall, Scripps College’s dean of faculty, who led the national search. “We look forward to his leadership and collaboration in this next phase of Keck Science’s growth and contribution to the sciences.”

Among his achievements, Sofia received the inaugural William and Diana Deshler Endowed Chair at Whitman College before becoming chair and professor of physics at American University in 2009. Sofia has held positions as director of NASA District of Columbia Space Grant, consultant to NASA Flight Dynamics Division, and associate director of Goddard Planetary Heliophysics Institute. Sofia focuses his research in the areas of solar activity predictions, interstellar dust, and the interstellar medium.

“I am honored and excited to be joining the dynamic and accomplished group of teacher-scholars at Keck Science,” Sofia said. “I look forward to working with the students, faculty, and administration as we build the infrastructure and programs to meet the growing demand for classes and research experiences in our collaborative and integrative scientific environment.” The W.M. Keck Science Department currently serves more than 3,000 students, has more than 30 full-time faculty, and offers 15 degrees in the four disciplines of biology, chemistry, environmental science, and physics.

Sofia began his academic career at Whitman College in 1998. He was awarded the A.E. Lange Award for Distinguished Science Teaching at Whitman College in 2003. He has been involved with grants totaling nearly $4 million from NASA and the [Hubble] Space Telescope Science Institute.

According to Marcus-Newhall, throughout his career Sofia has been a strong advocate for faculty pedagogy and scholarship and building a collaborative vision for academic programming. He was instrumental in overseeing the construction of a new science building and has extensive experience working with diverse stakeholders, securing funding, and building external partnerships.

Sofia received his BA from Wesleyan University in astronomy with high honors and his PhD in astronomy with a concentration in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The W.M. Keck Science Department serves as the integrated science department for Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges, and is administered cooperatively. Founded in 1964, the department is housed in the 81,000-square-foot W.M. Keck Science Center, physically located at the intersection of the three sponsor schools. The department has a multidisciplinary structure in which more than 30 full-time faculty cooperate in offering a challenging curriculum that emphasizes interdisciplinary study and research. Graduates of science majors pursue advanced degrees in science, medicine, and other health professions, teaching, or engineering. Undergraduate research is at the core of the science experience in the liberal arts environment, with esteemed science faculty and students working together side by side in addition to having their work published in scholarly journals and presenting research at professional scientific meetings.