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Ralph Quatrano named dean


By Diana Lutz

Ralph S. Quatrano, Ph.D., immediate past dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Spencer T. Olin Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, will become dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science on July 1, 2010. Quatrano succeeds Salvatore P. Sutera, Ph.D., who has served as interim dean since July 1, 2008.

“Ralph Quatrano has been an outstanding academic leader at Washington University for over a decade,” says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.

“Ralph assumes the deanship at a very important period in the history of the School of Engineering & Applied Science — a school with a strong vision for the future developed by the excellent work of the previous and current school leaders. I am confident that Ralph will build a community where world-class teaching and research are a priority.”

“I’m honored to be appointed,” says Quatrano.“The School of Engineering & Applied Science’s strategic plan offers an exciting vision for the future, one that clearly calls for engineering to take an increasingly important role in critical research across all disciplines.

“Building strong, interdisciplinary relationships has been an important part of my career, both as a researcher in the lab and as dean of Arts & Sciences. I’ve had interaction with the engineering school, and have grants with the faculty; I’ve published with the faculty in computer science, and I have active research programs in systems biology, imaging sciences, genomics, and informatics. I look forward to building on these synergies going forward."

“Engineering and the physical sciences are intimately related to the future of the life sciences. It is going to be very important in the next decade that the biological and medical sciences integrate with engineering, and I feel that this position, looking back from engineering into the life sciences, will be exciting and challenging for me.”

Quatrano was interim dean of Arts & Sciences from July 1, 2008, until June 30, 2009, following the appointment of Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., long-term Arts & Sciences dean and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, as Provost.

“I worked closely with Ralph in his capacity as chair of biology and as interim dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences,” says Macias, the Barbara & David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences. “His leadership is a good match for the School of Engineering."

"During the course of the search process, I have had the opportunity to meet with a number of engineering faculty. I am very impressed with the caliber of our faculty in engineering. I am indebted to those who served as members of the search committee. Their identification of Ralph Quatrano speaks highly of Ralph, of course, but also of the school itself. I think this is a wonderful outcome, and I look forward to the next chapter in engineering’s
distinguished history.”

“Ralph Quatrano is an excellent fit for the deanship because of his longstanding commitment to integrating education and research between life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering,” says  Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering and co chair of the advisory committee for the engineering dean search.

“Ralph Quatrano participated in the development of the engineering school’s strategic plan, which includes areas of focus cutting across Engineering, Arts & Sciences, and Medicine; he helped recruit faculty to build strength in those focus areas.”

Internationally Known Scientist
Quatrano came to Washington University in 1998 to assume the chair of one of the nation’s most highly regarded biology departments. In addition to serving as chair, he was director from 2005 to 2007 of the Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences, a university-wide consortium including medical, engineering, and science programs.

His research group often collaborates with Washington University School of Medicine researchers as well as with scientists from Monsanto and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

He took a leadership role in a consortium of more than 100 international researchers and the Joint Genome Institute of the Department of Energy to sequence and annotate the moss genome. This effort culminated in a major publication in 2008 in Science with Quatrano as corresponding author.

Quatrano earned his bachelor’s in botany with honors from Colgate University in 1962; his master’s in botany from Ohio University, Athens, in 1964; and his doctorate in biology from Yale University in 1968.

After completing his doctorate, Quatrano became a faculty member in botany at Oregon State University, Corvallis, a position he held until 1986.

During his last two years at Oregon State, he founded and directed the university’s Center for Gene Research and Biotechnology.

Quatrano moved from Oregon State to DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware, where he was research manager in molecular biology for the next three years.

He left DuPont in 1989 to become the first John N. Couch Professor of Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He served as chair of the Department of Biology at Chapel Hill from 1992 to 1997, before joining Washington University as chair of the Department of Biology and the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology.

Quatrano has been a visiting professor or investigator at many different institutions, including the University of Naples, Cambridge University, the University of Leeds, and the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole.

Having published more than 160 research papers, Quatrano has given invited seminars at institutions worldwide. He has won teaching awards at the undergraduate and graduate levels and has mentored 20 graduate students and 40 postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists.

He was editor-in-chief for five years of the journal The Plant Cell, the premier journal of plant biology; president of the American Society of Plant Biologists; a member of the Advisory Committee for Biological Sciences Directorate for the National Science Foundation; on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Rockefeller Foundation International Program on Rice Biotechnology; and, from 1991 to 1998, on the Board of Reviewing Editors for Science magazine, the publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Quatrano is a fellow of the AAAS and the Academy of Science of St. Louis as well as an inaugural fellow of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB).

In 2010, ASPB is honoring Quatrano with the prestigious Adolph E. Gude Jr. Award for his outstanding contributions in promoting plant science nationally and internationally.


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Prior to becoming dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science, Ralph S. Quatrano served as dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Spencer T. Olin Professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
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