Announcement of new Peterson Family Dean of Arts and Sciences


Office of the Provost

I want to announce the very exciting conclusion of our national search for WPI’s next Dean of Arts and Sciences. Jean King, PhD, a widely respected neuroscientist currently at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, will join our community September 15, 2017, as the new Peterson Family Dean of Arts and Sciences and Professor in the Department of Biology and Biotechnology.

Dr. King, who is currently the vice provost for biomedical research at UMass Medical School, is a tenured professor of psychiatry, radiology, and neurology, and the director for the Center for Comparative Neuroimaging at UMass; she has been on faculty there since 1994.

Many of you have already gotten to know Jean through her manifold activities in support of collaborative efforts between WPI and UMass in the life and biomedical sciences. Part of her excitement in joining us is the very positive interactions she has had with our faculty and in working with a number of our undergraduate and graduate students. In many ways, she has long had a presence at WPI and we are truly delighted that that presence will soon become even greater.

Dr. King received her doctorate in neurophysiology from New York University and focused her postdoctoral work at Emory University on the effects of stress and hormone interactions on a variety of cognitive, emotional, and social behaviors in human infants. At UMass, her work includes not only neurophysiology, neurochemistry, and behavior, but related magnetic resonance imaging technical and methodological development as well. Her research interests include the use of novel multimodal neuroimaging techniques to explore the impact of stressors and addiction on neural networks, as well as the neural mechanisms underlying comorbidity in disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), posttraumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury.  

Dr. King’s work has been consistently funded for more than two decades by such organizations as the National Institutes of Health, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the National Institute of Drugs of Abuse, the National Science Foundation, the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control, and the American Association of University Women, among others. She has published more than 80 original scientific papers in highly respected international scientific journals and more than 10 book chapters and review articles in major neuroscience journals. She has been a scientific consultant for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Veterans Administration, and she holds several patents, both awarded and pending, for technical and methodological advancements in the investigational use of MRI.

Dr. King has also held significant leadership roles in the scientific and academic communities at the local, regional, national, and international level and serves on numerous executive and/or advisory committees of scientific organizations, including the Institute of Neurobiology in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She also serves on the scientific council for the NIH.

Dr. King is a passionate mentor and advocate for young scientists, as evidenced by the UMass President’s Service Award and Outstanding Mentor Award she received from UMass Medical School in 2012 and 2016. She also received a prestigious ELAM (Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine) Award from Drexel University, which provided her with the opportunity to develop and refine a comprehensive micro-communities model of mentorship to support early faculty development. She has been a major contributor as co-director, teacher, and mentor for underrepresented students in the Summer Program in Neuroscience, Excellence and Success (SPINES) at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole.

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the members of the Dean of Arts and Sciences Search Committee for their considerable work in recruiting Dr. King to WPI. Co-chaired by Kristin Tichenor, senior vice president, and Suzanne Weekes, professor of mathematical sciences, the committee consisted of Kris Boudreau, department head of humanities and arts; Dmitry Korkin, associate professor of computer science; Suzanne Scarlata, professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Winston Soboyejo, Gordon Dean of engineering; Erkan Tuzel, associate professor of physics; undergraduate student Niamh Fennessy; and graduate student Chris Chute.  

I would be remiss if I did not give a final word of thanks to Karen Kashmanian Oates for her seven years of service to the university as the inaugural Peterson Family Dean of Arts and Sciences. Karen has been a steadfast champion of her faculty and students and through her leadership has made us a better institution. 

Finally, it also gives me great pleasure to announce that Bogdan Vernescu, vice provost for research, has agreed to serve as Dean of Arts and Sciences ad interim until Dr. King arrives on campus. I am very grateful to Bogdan for taking on these additional responsibilities over the summer months and into our new academic year.

Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Jean; although she will not officially join us until September, she will make several informal visits to campus over the summer. If you see her, please do introduce yourself.

Best regards,


Bruce E. Bursten

Provost and Senior Vice President

Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Boynton Hall, 1st Floor

100 Institute Road

Worcester, MA 01609-2280, USA