UCSC names astronomer Bryan Gaensler dean of Physical and Biological Sciences

Bryan Gaensler
Bryan Gaensler (Photo credit: Renee Wall)

UC Santa Cruz has appointed internationally recognized astronomer Bryan Gaensler to serve as dean of the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences, effective August 15.

Gaensler is currently director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, where he is a professor in the David A. Dunlap Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and a Canada Research Chair in Radio Astronomy.

Known for his research on cosmic magnetism, interstellar gas, and cosmic explosions, Gaensler has served as the Canadian Science Director for the Square Kilometre Array, an international radio telescope project, and as the co-chair of the Canadian Astronomy Long Range Plan 2020-2030. He is also co-chair of the Toronto Initiative for Diversity and Excellence (TIDE).

“Bryan Gaensler is an outstanding leader and researcher,” said Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer. “He has a proven record of collaborative and visionary leadership that elevates the contributions of others, and his many years of experience inside and outside the classroom inspiring students as an instructor and mentor, along with his commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the sciences, will benefit the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences and our entire campus.”

Gaensler received his Ph.D. from the University of Sydney in 1999, and subsequently held positions at MIT, the Smithsonian Institution, Harvard University, and the University of Sydney, before joining the University of Toronto in 2015. He has published more than 430 research papers and is the author of a best-selling popular astronomy book, Extreme Cosmos, which has been translated into five languages.

“UC Santa Cruz is an extraordinary place with enormous further potential,” Gaensler said. “I can’t wait to get started in this role, and to partner with so many talented people who share my values and goals.”

A fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, Gaensler gave the 2001 Australia Day Address to the nation and was named Young Australian of the Year in 1999. His research has twice been named as one of Science magazine’s “Breakthroughs of the Year” (in 2005 and 2020), and he has been awarded the American Astronomical Society’s Pierce Price, the Pawsey Medal of the Australian Academy of Science, and the Martin Award of the Canadian Astronomical Society.

Gaensler will succeed Paul Koch, who has served as dean since 2011. Kletzer thanked Koch for his exemplary leadership of the division over the past 12 years, saying, “Paul’s leadership, commitment and vision are the foundation for the many strengths of the Physical and Biological Sciences Division. His commitment to academic student success, to recruiting and hiring a diverse and high-achieving faculty, to growing extramural funding, and to building innovative research and teaching programs are all in evidence now.” After a sabbatical leave, Koch will return to his teaching and research in Earth & Planetary Sciences.