PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University president Christina H. Paxson today announced the appointment of Vicki Leigh Colvin as Brown University’s 12th provost. Colvin, currently vice provost for research and the Kenneth S. Pitzer-Schlumberger Professor of Chemistry and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Rice University, will begin her duties at Brown July 1, 2014. She succeeds Mark S. Schlissel, who was named president of the University of Michigan in January.
“In two decades at Rice, Vicki Colvin has built a distinguished research record as a physical chemist and a national reputation as an effective academic administrator,” Paxson said. “She is a collaborative and energetic leader who will work with faculty members, students, and staff to build Brown’s strength in innovative education and outstanding research. I look forward to her arrival in Providence as University provost.”
The provost is the University’s chief academic officer, second in rank to the president, and serves as deputy to the president in a range of University matters. Many of the University’s senior positions report directly to the provost, including the deans of the undergraduate College and Graduate School, the dean of the faculty, the University librarian, the chief information officer, dean of admission, director of financial aid, and vice president for research. The provost is the officer in charge when the president is away from campus.
A 12-member committee of faculty and students led the national search for Brown’s provost. Members included Iris Bahar, professor of engineering; Wendy Edwards, professor of visual art; Peter Friedmann, professor of medicine; Sharon Krause, professor of political science; Charles Larmore, the W. Duncan MacMillan Family Professor of the Humanities and professor of philosophy; Glenn Loury, the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and professor of economics; Kimberly Mowry, the Robin Chemers Neustein Professor of Biomedicine and professor of biology; Jack Mustard, professor of geological sciences and environmental studies; Crystal Ngo, a graduate student in American studies; Daniel Pipkin, an undergraduate in the Class of 2014; Kavita Ramanan, professor of applied mathematics; and David Rand, professor of biology. Kimberly Roskiewicz, assistant to the president, staffed the committee.
Vicki Leigh Colvin
A graduate of Stanford University (chemistry and physics, 1988), Colvin earned her doctorate at the University of California–Berkeley (chemistry, 1994). After two years at Bell Laboratories as a postdoctoral researcher and then as a member of the technical staff, she began her academic career at Rice in 1996 as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry.
In the year after her arrival at Rice, Colvin received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, the NSF’s most prestigious award for junior faculty, intended to help some of the nation’s most promising young scientists establish their research and teaching careers. She was also honored for her undergraduate teaching, winning Rice's Phi Beta Kappa teaching award for junior faculty and the national Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award three years later.
In her research career, Colvin has authored or co-authored more than 140 journal articles or book chapters. Her work has been honored with fellowships (Sloan fellow, AAAS fellow, fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering) and recognized by consumer publications (“Best and Brightest” honoree by Esquire in 2008, “Top 20 Young Scientists to Watch” by Discover magazine in 2000). For three and a half years, she served as co-director of the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice, and for a decade starting in 2001 she has directed the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology, one of NSF’s first Nanoscience and Engineering Centers.
More recently, Colvin has served on the NSF’s Advisory Committee for International Science and Engineering, chaired the National Institutes of Health’s Nanotechnology Study Section, been a member of the Intelligence Science Board, and served on editorial boards and advisory councils for a number of journals and professional organizations. She has also been an advocate for public communication about science and research, including a presentation for the Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to serve Brown’s faculty and students as provost,” Colvin said. “Brown is a place committed to integrated and interdisciplinary scholarship, and I look forward to becoming a part of its vibrant intellectual community.”