Dear Faculty of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences,

As the incoming Dean of Natural Sciences, I wish you a happy New Year and thank you for your extraordinary efforts during a difficult 2020. Together with our staff and students, you made the best of challenging times. I don’t want to underplay your past sacrifices or the trials we will still face, but I hope everyone can see light at the end of the tunnel.

It is important to acknowledge the outstanding work of our previous Dean Peter Rossky and Interim Dean Janet Braam, and I extend sincere thanks to them on behalf of our entire community. Their efforts have established a strong foundation upon which we will build. We are fortunate that Janet has agreed to continue serving the School as Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives. She joins Associate Dean for Research George Phillips and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Ken Whitmire.

Looking ahead, the next few years will be busy ones as we seek to expand the impact and visibility of our research programs and prepare the next generation of leaders. We will move quickly to develop and promote a strategic plan for the School that identifies priorities for investment to drive the next chapter of discovery at Rice.

In spite of financial challenges, we will continue to hire within all our departments, with a sustained emphasis on increasing diversity to create a faculty that better reflects and supports the students we aspire to teach.

We will also prioritize improving the student experience both inside the classroom and beyond it. Expect conversations within the School designed to identify ways to increase opportunities for students at all levels to cultivate research, leadership, and communication skills that will accelerate professional development and societal impact. I encourage you to consider ways to improve our gateway course sequences in order to attract larger and more diverse cohorts of students into further study and careers in the Natural Sciences.

Many of you know me well. For those that I have not met, I hope we can change that soon. When interactions through Zoom become the exception rather than the norm, I will reach out to faculty individually or in small groups to learn more about the full breadth of activities, ideas, and aspirations in the School. Your dedication to our shared mission of discovery and education is sincerely appreciated.

Best wishes,

Tom Killian

Dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences
Rice University