Six Top Scientists to Visit UMass Amherst Feb. 25-26 to Assess Future of Life Sciences on Campus

AMHERST, Mass. - Six top scholars in the sciences will visit the University of Massachusetts Feb. 25-26 to participate in discussions on the future of the life sciences and natural resources at the University. The visitors have agreed to come to campus as a newly established ad hoc group, the External Advisory Board on the Life Sciences and Natural Resources, and will hold a number of meetings with faculty, staff, students, and administrators.

All members of the University community are invited to join the group in an open forum to discuss the future of the life sciences and natural resources at the University Feb. 26 at 4:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall. Besides meeting in this public forum, the group will hold individual meetings with Chancellor David K. Scott, Provost Cora B. Marrett, various deans, department heads, interdisciplinary program directors, and others.

Included in "life sciences" are those disciplines that study life and its evolution, the role of ecological systems in the environment, and the management of natural resources.

The visiting scientists include: Lawrence Gilbert, associate provost of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who will chair the advisory board; Peter Crane, vice president for academic affairs and curator, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago; Arthur Horwich, professor of genetics and pediatrics, Yale University; Daryl Lund, dean of agriculture and life sciences, Cornell University; Eve Marder, professor and chair of the neuroscience program, Brandeis University; and Gary Schneider, associate dean of agricultural sciences and natural resources, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Marrett said that by bringing to campus distinguished scientists, such as the advisory team and last week’s visitor Rita R. Colwell, President Clinton’s nominee to be the new director of the National Science Foundation, "We hope to take advantage of their broad perspectives and also to showcase the work being done on this campus in many important areas."

According to Marrett, in increasing numbers, faculty in a range of departments are working together on topics in the life sciences which cut across traditional organizational lines. Examples include biotechnology and environmental sciences. Marrett said the advisory board will assist the campus in its deliberations on the life sciences, including how they should be organized and whether a new life sciences college should be created.

Marrett said that for the past two years a campus-wide panel, called the Life Sciences Steering Committee (LSSC), has been discussing the future of the life sciences, including the pros and cons of forming a College of Life Sciences and Natural Resources from departments now in three separate colleges: Food and Natural Resources, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Departments recommended by the LSSC for possible inclusion in the new college are: biochemistry and molecular biology and biology, now in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; entomology, food science, forestry and wildlife management, landscape architecture and regional planning, microbiology, plant and soil sciences, and veterinary and animal sciences, now in the College of Food and Natural Resources; and psychology, now in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Any reorganization plan must coincide with scholarly directions in the life sciences, highlight unique strengths of the University, and represent a logical arrangement for integrating teaching, research, and outreach, Marrett said.

Marrett said: "The University is interested in learning how to strengthen the connections among faculty, and how to build on the campus’s already strong programs. The input of distinguished scholars cannot fail to help us pursue these goals."