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Dean Named for College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences


Renowned Biochemist to Lead UCR’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences

Thomas O. Baldwin, head of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the University of Arizona, named dean, effective July 1

(June 11, 2008)

Thomas O. Baldwin, head of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics at the University of Arizona, has been named the dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at UC Riverside.Enlarge

Thomas O. Baldwin, head of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics at the University of Arizona, has been named the dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Thomas O. Baldwin, a biochemist well known for his studies on protein folding, has been named the dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (CNAS) at UC Riverside. His appointment is effective July 1.

“Dr. Baldwin brings to UCR a wealth of experience, exceptional leadership qualities and a distinguished background in teaching, scholarship and administration,” said Acting Chancellor Robert Grey. “His scientific reputation and commitment to excellence make him an ideal choice to lead the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. I am delighted to welcome him to our campus.”

Baldwin, 61, currently is head of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics at the University of Arizona, where he founded the Institute for Biomedical Science and Biotechnology, serving as its director from 2000 through 2003.

Research in his lab has exploited the bacterial bioluminescence system, the collection of genes that allow certain marine bacteria to emit light, as an experimental tool to study a variety of biological principles. He has investigated in detail the mechanism of the light-emitting reaction, as well as the process, called quorum sensing, that marine bacteria employ to express bioluminescence, a characteristic they express as a dense population of cells, but not as individual cells. Many non-bioluminescent bacteria use the same quorum sensing mechanism to coordinate other behaviors, such as pathogenesis, as a population of cells.

Baldwin is well known, too, for cloning of the bioluminescence genes from these bacteria and for transferring the bioluminescence characteristics into the common laboratory bacterium E. coli.

He is best known for his more recent work on “protein folding,” the biochemical process, vitally important to all of life’s processes, by which a protein assumes its three-dimensional structure. Protein misfolding leads to numerous disease states, including prion diseases such as “mad cow disease,” Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

“As dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Science, I hope to capitalize on the underlying strength of the faculty in the sciences to raise the profile of the college in the eyes of incoming students, making UCR a first choice university for students contemplating professions in basic and/or applied science,” Baldwin said. “I’m looking forward to joining those at UCR and the community who are working to keep our young people in school and preparing them for college. I plan also to work closely with leaders in the business and industry communities of inland Southern California, seeking their counsel regarding workforce needs, targets of opportunity for research and development, and other areas of mutual interest.”

His vision for the college is closely tied to the college’s land-grant mission. “In a few years, the college will have dramatically increased its interplay with business and industry within inland Southern California and will be preparing even greater numbers of students for leadership roles in those industries, as well as the health professions and law,” he said. “Research in the college, already recognized internationally for excellence in a number of fields, will be even more highly respected.”

A native of Mississippi, Baldwin received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry (1969) and his doctoral degree in zoology (1971), both from the University of Texas, Austin. He received postdoctoral training at Harvard University and began his academic career in biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Urbana, in 1975. In 1981, he moved to Texas A&M University, rising through the ranks to professor. He moved to the University of Arizona in 1999, where he is currently a professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics.

At Texas A&M University, Baldwin formed the Center for Macromolecular Design, which he directed from 1991-1999. He has served nationally in the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Protein Society and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in a variety of elected and appointed positions. He also has served on numerous committees and panels for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

The recipient of numerous awards for scholarship and research, including a Fulbright Scholarship and a Fogarty Senior International Fellowship, he was recognized as a Faculty Fellow for excellence in science and academic leadership by Texas A&M University and the Texas Agriculture Experiment Station.

With collaborators he has published more than 140 research papers. The editor or co-editor of four books, Baldwin also holds six patents based on his research. He has mentored more than 20 students who have received their doctoral degrees based on research done in his laboratory.

Baldwin will be joined by his wife, Miriam Ziegler, who is also a biochemist. They have two daughters: Rebecca, an attorney in Washington, D.C., and Ruth, a graduate student who lives with her husband in Berkeley, Calif.

Baldwin was selected from a national pool of nearly 50 candidates and will earn a base salary of $235,000 (additional details about his compensation are available at http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/compensation/salaryactions.html). He will be the seventh CNAS dean, succeeding Steven Angle. Donald Cooksey, a professor of plant pathology and bacteriologist at UCR, has served as the college’s interim dean since March 2007.

Under Cooksey's leadership, the strategic review of the CNAS structure that had begun under Dean Angle was completed. The resulting structural reorganization of the college into three academic divisions — agriculture and natural resources; life sciences; and physical and mathematical sciences — also has been completed during Cooksey’s tenure.

Cooksey presided over the doubling of individual private support to the college. In addition, he enlarged the Chancellor's Agricultural Advisory Committee and extended its public outreach. He also collaborated with the Office of Research to set up a research grant program with Los Alamos National Laboratory, and supervised the redesign and updating of the CNAS Website as well as the creation of a quarterly college newsletter.

“I am pleased with the selection of Dr. Baldwin,” Cooksey said. “He is already working hard to familiarize himself more with our programs and to develop several new programs to enhance our graduate education programs and development efforts.”

The College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, which brings together the areas of agricultural sciences, life sciences, physical sciences, and mathematical sciences into one academic unit, is internationally renowned for its research in pest and disease sciences, environmental sciences, conservation biology, genome biology, materials science, and nanotechnology.

Its history dates back to the establishment of the Citrus Experiment Station, which opened its doors on Feb. 14, 1907. The station moved to what is now the A. Gary Anderson School of Management in 1918, becoming the foundation for the UCR campus. In 1958, the College of Agriculture was formed. Steady growth, accompanied by a series of mergers with other science and mathematics disciplines, led, in 1974, to the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences in its present form.
Thomas O. Baldwin in the Dean's Office, the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, on June 30, 2008.  Photo credit: S. Clausen, UC Riverside.Enlarge

Thomas O. Baldwin in the Dean's Office, the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, on June 30, 2008. Photo credit: S. Clausen, UC Riverside.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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