|David Bodznick, the
new dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, researches neuron signals
in skate brains when he's not busy with administrative duties.
New Dean of Sciences has Full Slate
When David Bodznick took on the role as dean of the Natural Sciences and
Mathematics in July 2006, he became, in essence, a part-time mediator. In
his new position, the professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and
behavior, works as the liaison between the Wesleyan’s science and
mathematics faculty and the administration.
“For example, I have the chance to present the needs and aspirations of the
Division III faculty to the rest of the administration,” Bodznick explains
from his office in Shanklin, “and the responsibility of presenting the wider
perspective and long range planning goals of the Administration back to the
Bodznick was nominated to the four-year position by former Natural Sciences
and Mathematics Dean Joseph Bruno, who is the current vice president for
Academic Affairs and provost, and professor of chemistry. Bruno’s nomination
came after hearing input from colleagues. They cited Bodznick’s expertise
and experience working as the director of Graduate Studies and chairing the
The position encompasses the departments of Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry,
Earth and Environmental Sciences, Math and Computer Science, Molecular
Biology and Biochemistry, Physics and Psychology, and the Neuroscience and
“What really attracted me to the dean position was that it involves a lot of
problem solving,” he says. “I enjoy trying to find the best solution that
works most effectively toward the goal that needs to be met.”
Bodznick has already set short and long term goals for himself.
For one, he wants to continue where Bruno left off, raising awareness and
the visibility of the sciences at Wesleyan to the larger Wesleyan community
and to the outside world. He looks for ways to support the continued
successes of the science and math faculty in both teaching and research, and
he encourages them to share their research with their students and the
He mentions the outstanding research on stem-cells and neuron replacement
that are part of the recent Connecticut Stem Cell Initiative as a great
example of the important work going on throughout the sciences at Wesleyan.
Bodznick’s own research is on neuron signaling in the brains of vertebrates
including marine fishes. In fact, every summer, Bodznick and his students
move their lab equipment to the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole,
Mass. There, the group is among 300 neurobiologists from all over the world
working on research.
As dean, Bodznick will also work with the Science Advisory Council, which
comprises several Wesleyan alumni and Board of Trustee members, to find ways
to increase outside funding for undergraduate and graduate science programs.
He hopes to increase the applicant pool for science majors and offer
additional courses for non-science majors.
“Too many Wesleyan students graduate without taking science courses, despite
the fact that now, more than ever before, science literacy is a critical
part of a liberal arts education,” Bodznick says. “We need to continue
offering a large number of attractive, palatable classes for non-science
majors so they’ll want to include science courses in their curriculum.”
The dean’s heaviest workload falls on the new science center’s planning.
This facility will house three departments and will likely replace
Hall-Atwater, which has exceeded its useful lifespan. Bodznick, Wesleyan’s
own facilities experts and a building committee of faculty, students and
trustees, are meeting with architects. They are discussing the new building’s
feasibility options from the size and location to program planning, and a
renovation of Shanklin. Groundbreaking is expected by the end of 2009.
The at-home handyman says the new science center is one project he’s very
“To work on this from the beginning to end and see the ground breaking will
be a major accomplishment,” he says. “There’s a lot to be decided and a lot
of problem solving to do.”
With his plate full of administrative duties, Bodznick has to devote less
time to teaching, however it hasn’t affected his research or interaction
with Wesleyan students. He offers to present lectures in other classes,
attends biology and neuroscience graduate student meetings and meets
regularly with his four lab students. Next year, he expects new
undergraduates to join his research group, and he looks forward to teaching
them the methods of the lab.
“Ask anyone and they’ll tell you the best thing about working at Wesleyan is
the students,” Bodznick says. “I’d never want to lose contact with the
students, so I do what I can to interact with them, even when I’m not
teaching as much.”
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection