Christopher Stubbs, the Samuel C. Moncher Professor of Physics and of Astronomy and an accomplished experimental physicist whose work explores the intersection of cosmology, particle physics, and gravitation, has been appointed dean of science by Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay.
Stubbs has been serving as the interim dean of science since June, when Jeremy Bloxham stepped down. He will begin his tenure immediately.
Stubbs, who joined the faculty in 2003 as a professor of physics and astronomy, served as chair of the Physics Department from 2007 to 2010. In 2009, he was named a Harvard College Professor, an honor bestowed upon faculty members in recognition of excellence in their roles as educators.
As a physicist, Stubbs was a member of one of the two teams that discovered dark energy by using supernovae to map out the history of cosmic expansion. He also founded the APOLLO collaboration, which is using lunar laser ranging and the Earth-Moon-Sun System to probe for novel gravitational effects that may result from physics beyond the standard model, and is heavily engaged in the construction of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, for which he was the inaugural project scientist.
GAZETTE: As you move into this new role, what are your priorities?
stubbs: We have had a clear set of priorities for this particular academic year, and at the top of the list is implementing general education courses that meet our goals and aspirations as we roll that program out. We’ve been working over the past few months with department chairs and colleagues to make sure we can provide a slate of interesting courses that meet the pedagogical objectives of the program.
Secondly, there are two intellectual initiatives that are in the early stages, one in quantitative biology and the other in quantum science and engineering. We are working in partnership with our colleagues at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) to make sure the faculty leaders in those initiatives have what they need to thrive, and to align our investments in terms of space and resources to make sure those programs succeed.
This year we have also continued the strategic planning process for space in Cambridge as SEAS makes the transition to have part of their activities happen in Allston. As part of that process, we want to consider what kind of intellectual adjacencies we want to achieve and how to best use our space.
The last major objective I want to mention is to strongly engage with the faculty in our division and try to strengthen the faculty voice in the decisions we make — about the allocation of faculty searches and space and investments. We want to make sure those discussions happen in a thoughtful way and that the faculty are fully engaged in those deliberations.
GAZETTE: Can you describe the steps you’re taking to engage with the faculty in more detail and the form that’s taken?
stubbs: Part of it is a charm offensive — I’ve tried to set up individual meetings with every single untenured faculty member in the division to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help them succeed at Harvard. I’ve also been going to departmental meetings to introduce myself to colleagues who may not know me as well as others, and I’ve been having many one-on-one conversations.
I think my job here is to cultivate a conversation among colleagues so we can move forward in interesting directions. That will allow us to capitalize on our strengths, take advantage of the opportunities we have, and find a way to include faculty in those decisions.
Part of that process is proactively sharing information. As an organization, we gather a great deal of information, but it’s quite scattered. We want to try to collate, summarize, and distribute information, so stakeholders have a lot more visibility into what’s going on in places that are beyond their immediate landscape or environment.
As an example, in the context of general education, annual reports are delivered to the departments that describe how many courses were offered and how many students were taught, but there isn’t reciprocal visibility about what was happening in other departments. Our office pulled together a tabulation and distributed it to all department chairs, so we could say, “Here’s what’s happening in statistics and mathematics and physics.” That helps people understand how things look from the perspective of our office, and to better understand why search allocations were made the way they were. That strengthens us as an organization. What we hope to do in the future is use that as an example of how our office can draw together and distribute information so we can all be better-informed.
That’s not to say we’re going to construct a figure of merit and rank things exclusively on quantitative information, but we have information that I would say is underutilized. Capturing that data and leveraging it helps us make better-informed choices … that seems a good direction for us to go.