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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2015 / 03 

Lay Nam Chang to step down as dean of College of Science

March 31, 2015

Lay Nam Chang
Lay Nam Chang

Lay Nam Chang will step down from his position as dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Science in July, 2016, after leading the college for 13 years.

Chang was the founding dean of the College of Science since its establishment in 2003 when the former College of Arts and Sciences was recast to become the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and the College of Science.

“I am grateful for the leadership and service Lay Nam has given the university and the College of Science,” said Senior Vice President and Provost Mark G. McNamee. “He has brought an interdisciplinary approach to his leadership, as evidenced in an ongoing cluster hiring approach, key strategic collaborations, and the development of the Academy of Integrated Science. The college is well-positioned for continued success as a result of his many efforts.”

“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have helped shape and grow a truly outstanding College of Science,” Chang said. “I have been very fortunate to have worked with many outstanding faculty who have been dedicated to the pedagogy and scholarship of the natural sciences, and who vigorously seek to share their knowledge and perspectives with faculty colleagues from different disciplines. We have created an environment at Virginia Tech where students will be better prepared and where scholars will further push the frontiers of scientific knowledge and discovery.”

“The integrated sciences thrust, which Dean Chang championed, is firmly embedded in our culture.  We are committed to this approach, a model for future science education and research,” said President Timothy Sands.

Chang joined Virginia Tech’s Department of Physics faculty in 1978 following seven years on the University of Pennsylvania faculty. In 1995, he became chair of the physics department and served in that position until 2002 when he became dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Early in his tenure as founding dean of the College of Science, Chang implemented a unique cluster hiring process for new faculty, which attracted a larger, more diverse pool of candidates to build stronger collaborations among university programs. The strategy brought to Virginia Tech world-class scholars across many interdisciplinary disciplines, including vector-borne diseases, obesity, nanoscience, and water, which has had a major impact on the research and teaching within the College of Science and across the university. 

Chang also championed a unique joint intellectual property law program, established partnerships with the Georgetown Medical Research Centers, and established the Institute for Advanced Study, which was the driving force in making Virginia Tech a leading contender in the national competition to select a site to established an National Science Foundation-funded Deep Underground Science and Engineering Lab.

In 2011, the College of Science launched its Interdisciplinary Science Curriculum. In 2013, the first Virginia Tech students with a minor in Science, Technology, and Law, graduated from the university.

In recent years, Chang inspired his faculty to develop and offer several new interdisciplinary and collaborate degree programs, including undergraduate degree programs in Nanoscience, Neuroscience, Computational Modeling and Data Analytics, and Systems Biology. These programs will position Virginia Tech to be more attractive to students and scholars from across the world. 

Since the founding of the College of Science in 2003, more than 7,500 alumni and friends have given more than $38.3 million to the college, combined. Sixty-seven scholarships, five professorships, and 58 program funds have been established thanks to donations, and commitments of future support valued at more than $44.5 million have been received.

To garner more support for current and future college initiatives, Chang established the College of Science Roundtable Advisory Board to more deeply engage alumni and friends who are passionate about the mission of the college.

“The members of the roundtable have been such a joy to work with and have been so supportive of the college that I can honestly say what we’ve accomplished since 2003 would not have been possible without them,” Chang said. “They have provided me guidance and assistance when I was moving in the right direction as well as encouragement and course-correction when I was verging on mistakes. I am deeply humbled and grateful to have worked with each person who has served on the board.”

Chang received his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in 1964 and his Ph.D. in theoretical physics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1967. He has conducted research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago and has been a visiting scientist or visiting instructor at institutions of higher education in Denmark, British Columbia, Singapore, and the United States.

The Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost will soon begin its work to launch an international search for the next dean. Information on that process will be published in Virginia Tech News as it progresses.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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