Barbara A. Schaal, PhD, the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences and director of the Tyson Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis, will become the university’s next dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, effective Jan. 1, 2013. Schaal, who joined the university’s faculty in 1980, is a world-renowned evolutionary plant biologist. She will be the first woman dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences when she officially begins her position Jan. 1, 2013.
“Barbara Schaal’s scholarship and teaching are legendary on campus,” says Edward S. Macias, PhD, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and also the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences. “I have continuously relied on her sound judgment and ability to think about the overall picture of the university. She has a way of bringing things into perspective and focusing in on what is important.”
On campus, Schaal has held several leadership positions. She chaired the biology department from 1993 to 1997, and since summer 2011, she has directed the Tyson Research Center, overseeing operations of the 2,000-acre environmental research station some 20 miles southwest of the Danforth Campus. Her top-level WUSTL committee assignments include the Academic Planning Committee in Arts & Sciences, the Curriculum Implementation Committee and the University Affirmative Action Committee.
Schaal also has been called into service on the national stage. Shortly after taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Schaal to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. And just this past November, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited Schaal to become a Science Envoy of the State Department, one of only three appointed.
A member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1999, she was elected as the academy’s first woman vice president in 2005. Schaal won re-election to the four-year post in 2009. She has been president of the Botanical Society of America and of the Society for the Study of Evolution.
“Barbara Schaal is a smart, tough-minded and clear-sighted administrator and educator. She is able to balance her pathbreaking research in evolutionary plant genetics with leadership roles at the university and the profession at large with amazing grace,” says Lynne Tatlock, PhD, the Hortense & Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and current chair of the Faculty Council. “I am heartened by her devotion to Washington University’s signature balance of high-quality undergraduate education, strong graduate programs and world-class research.”
Born in Berlin, Germany, Schaal grew up in Chicago and earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in biology in 1969 from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned a master’s degree in 1971 and a doctorate in 1974, both in population biology from Yale University. After serving on the faculties of the University of Houston and Ohio State University, she joined Washington University in 1980 as associate professor in biology and was promoted to professor in 1986. She was named the Spencer T. Olin Professor in Arts & Sciences in 2001 and was the inaugural recipient of the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professorship in 2009.
Schaal has received numerous prestigious awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Key Award from the American Genetics Association and, most recently, the American Institute of Biological Sciences Distinguished Scientist Award for 2011–12.
At WUSTL, she regularly involves undergraduates in her labs and mentors graduate and postdoctoral students. She was among the first plant scientists to use molecular biology–based approaches to understand evolutionary processes in plants, and she has worked to advance the understanding of plant molecular systematics and population genetics. Her recent work includes collaborating with students and peers to research the evolutionary genetics of plants in hopes of enriching crops such as cassava — the sixth-most important food crop in the world — and rice.