Uhrich named dean of UCR College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
“Kathryn Uhrich has excelled as an academic administrator, interdisciplinary researcher and inspiring educator. Her multidisciplinary research has spurred new technologies as well as creative collaborations with agricultural and plant researchers,” said D'Anieri. “We are very much looking forward to her arrival at UCR.”
D'Anieri expressed his appreciation for the dedication of interim dean Cynthia Larive, professor of chemistry, and for the effort of the search committee, led by Michael Pazzani, UCR's vice chancellor for research.
Uhrich, a distinguished polymer chemist, served from 2009 through 2013 as dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers. Serving more than 300 faculty in six departments, she developed programs to increase research and teaching collaborations between departments and colleges in the university. Working with the department chairs, she led the modification of the university's promotion process to recognize contributions of academic leadership. Under her leadership, support for research funding and assistance with applications for extramural funding increased along with university investments in new approaches to teaching science.
“UCR's commitment to excellence in interdisciplinary research, inclusion, education, and international engagement strongly aligns with my experience and expertise,” said Uhrich. “The excellence within the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences is well-known by scholars, and it is an honor to join the faculty and leadership team of UC Riverside. I am excited to work with staff and faculty to further academic excellence, as well as with students and alumni who have benefited from UCR's commitment to excellence.”
Both as dean and leading member of the Rutgers faculty, Uhrich worked with the university leadership and state legislators to initiate the construction and design of a new chemistry/science building to expand both the research and teaching capacity of the faculty. Previously, as graduate program director in the chemistry and chemical biology department, Uhrich worked to diversify the graduate program to include more women and people of color. Working with alumni, she raised funding to create new fellowships to support graduate students.
Uhrich's research links chemistry with the life sciences and engineering disciplines to create new materials and design new devices in which polymers can be used to increase health and extend life. Widely recognized as a leading innovator in polymer research, Uhrich's research focuses on designing bioactive, biodegradable polymers for use in drug delivery, food safety and personal care. She has been issued more than 70 U.S. and international patents, and her work has spawned several start-up companies, including Polymerix Corporation, which created biodegradable delivery systems for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and coatings for surgical implants.
Uhrich has authored more than 140 peer-reviewed papers. She has also collaborated extensively with colleagues in this country and overseas, and worked in close partnership with companies such as Chanel, DuPont, Exxon Mobil, Johnson & Johnson and Merck.
Uhrich earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Cornell University, and her B.S. in chemistry, with honors, from the University of North Dakota.
In her work at Rutgers, she has been a champion of enhanced STEM education for women and people of color. As dean, Uhrich worked with departments and the University to ensure inclusive practices for faculty – from faculty hiring, to faculty promotion and recognition. As a board member of the Rutgers' Office for the Promotion of Women, Science, Engineering and Mathematics, Uhrich worked to foster supportive environments for students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds. As a researcher, Uhrich's interest in mentoring the next generation of scientists is reflected by the composition and size of her research team: she has supervised 60 Ph.D. students from four departments and more than 80 undergraduate students.
Uhrich's professional experience includes stints as a visiting professor at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the University of New South Wales, Australia. Her research lab has hosted dozens of visiting scientists from across the globe including Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Netherlands, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Scotland, and Turkey. Through various roles, Uhrich champions institutional support for international research at Rutgers. She was a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and also worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories and at Eastman Kodak.
In addition to her status as a fellow of the American Chemical Society, she is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Bioactive and Compatible Polymers and a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Members of the search committee were
- Michael Pazzani, Vice Chancellor, Research and Economic Development (Chair)
- Ward Beyermann, Associate Professor, Physics
- Anupama Dahanukar, Assistant Professor, Entomology
- Jay Gan, Professor, Environmental Sciences
- Cheryl Gerry, Financial and Administrative Officer, CNAS
- Mikeal Roose, Chair and Professor, Botany and Plant Sciences
- Frances Sladek, Professor, Cell Biology
- Glenn Stanley, Professor, Psychology
- Sue Wessler, Distinguished Professor, Botany and Plant Sciences
- Preston Williams, President of the Graduate Student Association
- Jose Wudka, Professor, Physics and Astronomy
- Francisco Zaera, Distinguished Professor, Chemistry