Feng Sheng Hu, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (LAS) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has been appointed dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences and professor of biology and of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, effective July 1, according to Chancellor Andrew D. Martin.
Hu will succeed Barbara A. Schaal, who last year announced her intention to conclude her deanship.
A member of the University of Illinois faculty in the Department of Plant Biology and the Department of Geology since 1998, Hu has served since 2017 as dean of LAS, where he is responsible for providing leadership for the academic mission of the college.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to have recruited Feng Sheng Hu to fill this mission-critical role,” Martin said. “He is a distinguished leader and scholar with an impressive record of recruiting top faculty and inspiring support for strategic investment in the education and research enterprise. He is the right person to continue our trajectory of excellence in Arts & Sciences. We look forward to welcoming him to Washington University and to the St. Louis community.
“I also want to again express my deep gratitude to Barbara Schaal for her years of service,” Martin added. “She has been instrumental in advancing our research and academic enterprise, and I know Dean Hu will be a capable successor as we embark on this exciting next chapter for Arts & Sciences. I’m also thankful to the search committee for its diligence, which led to this outstanding result.”
Hu, who is also a professor of plant biology and the Ralph E. Grim Professor in Geology, will be installed as an endowed chair at Washington University in recognition of his scholarly distinction. He is widely recognized for his innovative, interdisciplinary research on long-term ecosystem dynamics in relation to climate change.
Prior to his appointment as dean of LAS, he had served as head of the Department of Plant Biology and associate dean for life and physical sciences. He has been recognized as a Packard Fellow in Science and Engineering, a University Scholar of the University of Illinois, a Fulbright Scholar, and a fellow of both the Ecological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The author of some 130 scholarly articles in publications including Nature, Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Hu has received extensive research funding from federal agencies, including numerous grants from the National Science Foundation.
“Feng Sheng Hu is an accomplished and creative scholar whose interdisciplinary research spans biological, geological and atmospheric sciences,” said Interim Provost Marion G. Crain. “We are delighted that he has accepted our offer to become the next dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences and know that he will bring dynamic leadership to the position.”
In addition to his achievements in research, Hu also is an accomplished teacher, having taught numerous courses and trained dozens of postdoctoral scientists and graduate students, many of whom have received prestigious research awards and gone on to hold faculty positions themselves.
He is actively engaged in professional service activities and has served on editorial boards for a number of leading journals in geology and ecology.
“I’m thrilled about this new opportunity to pursue my aspirations in both academic leadership and interdisciplinary scholarship at an institution of the highest caliber. It is exhilarating to envision new adventures in the next chapter of my career at Washington University,” Hu said. “It is an honor and a privilege to be joining the WashU family. I’m looking forward to interacting with the faculty, staff and students and working with them to advance Arts & Sciences.”
A graduate of Xiamen University with a bachelor’s degree in biology, Hu earned his master’s degree in botany from the University of Maine and his doctorate in ecosystem science from the University of Washington.