Karen Kashmanian Oates, Peterson Family Dean of Arts and Sciences at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society.
Election as a fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers in recognition of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. Oates, along with this year's other newly inducted fellows, will be honored on Feb. 18, 2012, during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is being honored for her contributions to science education.
In an academic career spanning more than 25 years, she has led a program that combined the liberal arts and the sciences, was founding provost at a new science and technology university, established a national center focused on science teaching, and worked to improve undergraduate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.
Nationally, she conducts faculty development workshops on such topics as progressive pedagogical approaches to support learning, assessment strategies, and discovery-based undergraduate research. She has served as a Eurasia specialist with the U.S. Agency for International Development/Higher Education for Development and has frequently participated in global research and education initiatives. In 2008, she received the Bruce Albert Award for excellence in science education.
Oates became WPI's inaugural arts and sciences dean in 2010 after serving as deputy director of undergraduate education at the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Undergraduate Studies, where she managed a budget of over $380 million and a staff of more than 35 charged with supporting innovative programs to strengthen undergraduate education and help revitalize American entrepreneurship and competitiveness.
After earning her PhD in biochemistry at George Washington University, Oates worked as a visiting scientist at the National Institutes of Health's Oncology and Hematology Division. In 1985, she joined the faculty of George Mason University, where she ultimately became associate dean of the new College of Integrated and Interdisciplinary Studies, which combines the liberal arts and the sciences in an innovative program that integrates interdisciplinary knowledge with lifelong education through experiential, hands-on learning. At George Mason, she was also centrally involved in creating the New American College environment, led the development of the first-year core learning community program, and expanded the Center for Service and Leadership, establishing a Leadership Certificate Program.
In 2003, she was recruited to help found the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology and serve as its inaugural provost. While at Harrisburg, she established the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement, which promotes the teaching of science through engagement with contemporary social issues, and helped secure NSF funds for Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities, which works to improve undergraduate STEM education by connecting learning to critical civic questions.
Oates' early research focused on the active effects and characterization of thymic hormones (hormones produced by the thymus gland) in immune restoration and cancer therapy. More recently, she has published and spoken about women's health, faculty development, service learning, business-higher education partnerships, and K-12 science and mathematics education.