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Putting Knowledge to Work: Q&A with UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox

Marye Ann Fox, a world-renowned chemist, is the 7th Chancellor of the University of California, San Diego and Professor of Chemistry. Before her current appointment, she served as North Carolina State University's 12th Chancellor, as Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry at NC State (from 1998 to 2004), and as Waggoner Regents Chair in Chemistry and Vice President for Research at the University of Texas at Austin. Chancellor Fox was born in Canton, Ohio and received her Bachelor's of Science from Notre Dame College and her Ph.D. from Dartmouth College, both in Chemistry. After a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Maryland, she joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin in 1976.

Q: Can you tell us about your immediate and longer term goals for UCSD?

MAF: In the short term, we'd like to successfully complete our capital campaign, get on-campus housing projects under way, and ensure that we have the faculty and resources we'll need for growing student enrollment. Making our campus friendlier to our students, more of a community, is one of my highest priorities. In the long term, my priorities are to help foster innovation across the university, enhance our international reach, and strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration - all of which, I believe, will keep UCSD at the forefront of public research universities well into the 21st century.

Q: What role do you see the San Diego Supercomputer Center as playing at UCSD?

MAF: I see SDSC as a powerful extension of the UCSD research environment - an organization that complements UCSD's dedication to extending our international reach, supporting collaborative environments and encouraging the advancement of women in science.

Q: Why do you think interdisciplinary collaborations are such an important area of focus for both UCSD and SDSC?

MAF: Unusual collaborations that bring together various academic disciplines to solve a particular problem can lead to ground-breaking solutions. The results can address complicated issues that no one discipline could have resolved. This was evident in two recent natural disasters. After the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, SDSC researchers worked with sociologists, geologists, and biologists to gather, study and archive data that will be invaluable to future researchers in far-reaching disciplines. And in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, UCSD built collaborations among various disciplines to produce a Geographic Information System (GIS) designed to assess toxic hazards caused by the hurricane. Through these collaborations, we are working together to improve the world, one idea at a time.

Q: You and SDSC Director Fran Berman are both distinguished women in science. What do you think of the climate for women in science these days?

MAF: Things have gotten better over the past three decades, but we still have a long way to go. According to a 2004 survey by the National Science Foundation, there is slower employment growth for women in science and technology fields at research universities compared to the private sector. I make it a priority to encourage young women who are considering entering a scientific profession. Fran and I are tackling this issue head-on by working with organizations dedicated to the advancement of women in science and technology. It's great to share this leadership role with Fran - we hope to pave the road for future generations of young women to excel in science.

Q: Tell us something that inspired you recently.

MAF: I find somebody or something that impresses me almost every day here at UCSD. If I had to be specific, I'd say I was inspired by the stories published in our alumni magazine of students who've earned Alumni Leadership scholarships. Some of them have overcome dramatic hardships to persevere here at UCSD. Their tenacity and determination to succeed is very inspiring.

Q: Who do you admire and why?

MAF: I've always considered Marie Curie an inspiration for her pioneering scientific work at a time when few women held such positions. I hope that all of us who benefited by her example can, in turn, encourage other underrepresented groups to excel in their chosen fields.