Professor Anita Mattson has been appointed interim head of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the School of Arts and Sciences. Her two-year appointment took effect July 1.
Mattson succeeds Professor Arne Gericke, who led the department for 10 years and oversaw the hiring of new women faculty members as well as an expansion of faculty members’ research. Gericke has taken over the role of associate dean of undergraduate studies.
Mattson says she plans to focus on encouraging faculty members in the department to re-engage with each other as they return to campus for the new academic year.
“We’re coming back after a year marked by pandemic precautions,” she says. “Although faculty members continued to collaborate remotely, that’s different from interacting in the office. I want to foster ways for people to reconnect to one another in person, and maybe new collaborations will form.”
Mattson also plans to continue Gericke’s efforts to seek out diverse candidates for faculty jobs and increase the department’s research activity.
“I also want to involve faculty members in developing strategic goals for the department,” she says. “We have extensive data on the number of credit hours taught by faculty members, the amount of funding supporting research, and many more metrics to help inform new strategies. I plan to meet with faculty members, learn what they want the department to achieve, and then help them achieve those goals.”
Mattson is an organic synthetic chemist who earned her PhD at Northwestern University. Before joining the WPI faculty in 2016, she was an associate professor of chemistry at The Ohio State University.
Her research focuses on designing and building small organic molecules for complex molecule synthesis. Mattson has been the lead author of about 40 peer-reviewed journal articles, and she has received about $2.5 million in grant funding for projects, including a $1.7 million award from the National Institutes of Health to develop catalysts to synthesize organic compounds that could treat drug-resistant cancers. She is also collaborating on a $3 million project led by Elke Rundensteiner, professor of computer science, to develop a graduate program focused on interdisciplinary approaches to building sustainable economies.
Before becoming interim department head, Mattson was associate department head and a member of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Graduate Admissions Committee. She also has served on the university’s Committee of Academic Operations.
“Anita is an innovative and energetic leader,” says Jean King, Peterson Family Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “She thinks creatively and has served her department by developing new curricula, creating a medicinal chemistry graduate program, and working to update the department handbook. I’m delighted that she is taking on this new role.”