WPI Appoints Internationally Recognized Scholar as Provost

Bruce E. Bursten is a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and former president of the American Chemical Society
February 17, 2015

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) President Laurie Leshin today announced the appointment of Bruce E. Bursten, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as the university's new provost. The appointment is effective June 1.

As WPI provost, Bursten will be responsible for the university's academic and research programs. His primary charge will be to ensure continued excellence in the undergraduate curriculum, strengthen graduate studies and research, recruit, retain, and support outstanding faculty, and elevate the university's stature and impact.

"Bruce Bursten brings decades of experience as an educator and researcher, and has an outstanding record as a dynamic and effective leader," said President Leshin. "He has shown the ability to work cohesively with faculty, students, and other key stakeholders, and he possesses the vision and energy required to help take this university to the next level of achievement. I am thrilled to welcome him to the WPI community. In Bruce we have clearly found a distinguished and gifted scientist to join our ranks."

Bursten received a bachelor of science in chemistry, with honors, from the University of Chicago in 1974, and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1978.

He has a strong reputation as a chemist, with more than 160 peer-reviewed publications, and is co-author of one of the leading textbooks in general chemistry—currently in its 13th edition. Before his current role at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, he had a fruitful career at Ohio State University, where he was named Distinguished University Professor and served as chair of the Department of Chemistry.

Over the years, Bursten has received numerous national and international honors for his academic accomplishments and has been elected to leadership roles in the American Chemical Society (ACS), which he served as president, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where he is the current chair of the Chemistry Section. An elected fellow of AAAS and ACS, he has received the Spiers Medal and Prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom and the Catalyst Award from the American Chemistry Council (a national award for chemistry teaching).

"I'm very excited about joining such a premier academic institution that has long recognized that excellence in science and technology can truly address human needs across the global stage," Bursten said. "As WPI seeks to expand its academic reach and impact, I'm looking forward to working with the faculty, staff, students, and the broader academic community to strengthen WPI's academic programs and research at all levels."

Bursten will succeed Eric Overström, who has served as provost since 2011, and who announced last summer his intention to step down once a successor was on board.

A Chicago native who was raised in Milwaukee, Wis., Bursten will be joined in Worcester by his partner, Carol Edelstein, a talent management strategist. His daughter, Julia, was recently appointed an assistant professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University.