Frances Hellman appointed dean of L&S division of mathematical and physical sciences

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Physics professor Frances Hellman was appointed the dean of the division of mathematical and physical sciences in the College of Letters and Science, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele announced Wednesday.

Hellman has been a faculty member of the UC Berkeley physics department since 2005, serving as chair of the department from 2007 to 2013. Hellman also holds appointments in the campus materials science and engineering department and in the materials sciences division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“It’s a great honor to be selected for a position like this,” Hellman said. “It’s amazing.”

As dean, Hellman hopes to help the five departments of the division of mathematical and physical sciences achieve their goals and strengthen connections between them and other parts of the campus, such as the engineering departments.

In a campuswide message, Steele also announced that professor emeritus Christopher McKee — who served as chair of the campus physics department from 2000 to 2004 — will serve as interim dean until Jan. 1, when Hellman will assume her new position.

Hellman aims to work on various research projects before taking on administrative responsibilities as dean. She will also take a sabbatical leave, which was scheduled prior to the appointment, at the Exploratorium in San Francisco — an institution whose ties she hopes to strengthen with UC Berkeley.

McKee and Hellman will be succeeding Mark Richards, who has held the position since 2002.

Richards has concurrently served as executive dean of the College of Letters and Science since 2006. In April, Carla Hesse, history professor and dean of the division of social sciences in the college, was announced as the new executive dean.

During his tenure, Richards oversaw planning for a program that drew more than $160 million for infrastructure improvements in the physical sciences division and established various programs to increase diversity among students and faculty, including Cal Teach and the Berkeley Science Network.

“I hope my tenure can be marked with as many great things as his (tenure) was,” Hellman said.

Somin Park is a news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @_sominpark.