UChicago Biosciences welcomes new Dean, Dr. David Kovar

David Kovar

David R. Kovar, PhD, Professor of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology and of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has been named the new Dean of Graduate Affairs. Dr. Kovar will begin on March 1 in an overlapping role with Vicky Prince, PhD, Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and current Dean for Graduate Affairs, and then formally begin his term as Vicky steps down on July 1, 2022. Dr. Kovar will lead the efforts to evolve our training programs to meet the needs of the next generation scientific workforce and expand into new directions in science, all central to our mission in the BSD. He will interface with other Divisions at UChicago committed to graduate training and play a pivotal role within the BSD and University at large. 

Dr. Kovar has been involved in graduate education since he began his independent career at UChicago in 2005, including training students in his laboratory and holding leadership roles on graduate program curriculum and admissions committees. Twelve PhDs have graduated from his lab, and he is currently training three more. Six of his students have received thesis awards from their respective graduate programs, as well as one BSD-wide thesis award and one William Rainey Harper Dissertation Fellowship. Dr. Kovar has been a member of the Cell and Molecular Biology graduate program curriculum committee since 2009, serving as program chair since 2015, and has also been director of the Molecular Biosciences graduate programs cluster since 2019. He has been a graduate admissions committee member since 2007, chairing Cell and Molecular Biology admissions from 2012-2019, and then chairing Molecular Biosciences cluster admissions since 2019.

As a researcher, Dr. Kovar is a basic scientist, focusing on the underlying mechanistic principles by which cells regulate self-organization and dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton to facilitate diverse fundamental processes such as division, motility, and polarization. His lab utilizes multidisciplinary approaches in and out of cells, including genetic and molecular genetic manipulation and live-cell fluorescence imaging in fission yeast and worm zygotes, as well as multi-color single filament/molecule imaging of reconstituted actin cytoskeleton networks from purified components in vitro.

Vicky Prince
Outgoing Dean of Graduate Affairs, Dr. Vicky Prince

Dr. Prince held the position as Dean for Graduate Affairs for the past 12 years. During her tenure, she led an effort to consolidate staff across the 16 BSD graduate programs and manage them centrally though the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs (OGPA). This was part of an extensive review of practices that led to more equitable processes for allocating budgets, a new, comprehensive website for the graduate programs, and the establishment of a dedicated Training Grant office within OGPA.

In 2014, Dr. Prince, Erin Adams, PhD, and Julian Solway, MD, led the launch of the NIH-funded myCHOICE program, which has become an integral part of the curriculum for BSD’s pre and post-doctoral trainees and has made UChicago a national leader in professional development. In 2015, she partnered with Stefano Allesina, PhD, and Stephanie Palmer, PhD, to develop QBIO, an NSF-funded Quantitative Approaches Boot camp that establishes a core level of familiarity with computational tools for all incoming BSD graduate students, emphasizing the importance of rigorous and reproducible analysis of big data sets, and helps form lasting cohorts of students across different BSD programs.

Dr. Prince has also worked to increase the emphasis on diversity in the graduate programs, building a larger, more diverse applicant pool in collaboration with Nancy Schwartz, PhD, Dean for Postdoctoral Affairs. During her tenure, the BSD Diversity Committee founded the annual EE Just Lecture honoring one of the first African Americans to earn a PhD at UChicago, along with several other diversity focused programs, including the new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Assistantship program.

At the end of her tenure, Dr. Prince looks forward to devoting more time in her research lab, where she uses cellular, molecular, and comparative approaches to study developmental processes. Eleven PhDs have graduated from her lab since she joined UChicago in 1997, and she has two graduate students currently in training. Her team works with the zebrafish model system, using high resolution live imaging and molecular genetic tools to understand embryonic patterning, with an ongoing focus on regionalization of the nervous system.  In June 2022, she will become President of the Society for Developmental Biology and begin planning its annual meeting to be hosted in Chicago in 2023.

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