Gov Mead appoints panel to ‘improve’ science programs at University of Wyoming

— August 25, 2014

(Press release) — Gov. Matt Mead has appointed a group of accomplished scientists, industry leaders and other professionals to focus on upgrading the science programs and laboratories at the University of Wyoming.

The Legislature created the panel as a first step in a process for UW to become one of the top academic and research institutions in science.

“These outstanding individuals have agreed to contribute their time and expertise to help UW,” the governor says. “These are some of our nation’s best and brightest. Their insights will be invaluable as we work for a top-tier program at UW.”

The task force is scheduled to meet for the first time Sept. 9-10 in Laramie. Its members are:

— Tom Botts, former executive vice president of global manufacturing for Royal Dutch Shell who received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UW in 1977. He also is a member of the Wyoming Governor’s Energy, Engineering and STEM Integration Task Force.

— Carol Brewer, faculty member in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Montana, where she previously served as associate dean of arts and sciences. She received her master’s degree (zoology/physiology, 1986) and Ph.D. (botany, 1993) at UW.

— Lowell Burnett, chief technical adviser to Quantum Applied Science & Research (QUASAR) Inc. and CEO of QUASAR Federal Systems Inc. He received his Ph.D. in physics from UW in 1970 and worked for many years in higher education, including as a department head at San Diego State University. He co-founded Quantum Magnetics Inc. in 1987.

— Jeffrey Cummings, director of the Cleveland Clinic-Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Cleveland, Ohio, and Las Vegas, Nev. The former director of the UCLA-Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research received his bachelor’s degree in zoology/physiology from UW in 1970 and his medical degree from the University of Washington.

— Brent Eastman, a physician who specializes in general, vascular and trauma surgery and currently serves as president of the American College of Surgeons. He is a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control’s Board of Scientific Counselors, and president of the Howard C. Naffziger Surgical Society at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF). The Evanston native graduated with a bachelor’s degree from UW in zoology/physiology in 1962 and received his medical degree from UCSF.

— Fred Eshelman, the retired founder of Pharmaceutical Product Development, which now has 10,000 employees and operations in 38 countries. The former faculty member at the University of Cincinnati received his bachelor’s degree from High Point University and his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where the pharmacy school is named for him. He owns a ranch at Elk Mountain and has served on a UW School of Pharmacy advisory board.

— Dave Freudenthal, former two-term Wyoming governor, who is an attorney with the firm of Crowell & Moring in Cheyenne. He also served as U.S. attorney for the District of Wyoming and as a state economist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Amherst College and earned his law degree at UW. He also is a member of the Wyoming Governor’s Energy, Engineering and STEM Integration Task Force.

— Bob Grieve, founder and former CEO of Heska Corp., a Colorado-based animal health care firm that sells advanced veterinary diagnostic and other specialty products. He is executive chairman of the Heska board. After earning his bachelor’s (1973) and master’s (1975) degrees at UW and his Ph.D. at the University of Florida in microbiology, he also taught at Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Colorado State University.

— Phil Nicholas, longtime state legislator from Albany County who is currently the Senate majority floor leader. He received a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Oregon State University and his law degree from UW. He’s also a member of the Wyoming Governor’s Energy, Engineering and STEM Integration Task Force.

The new science task force will work with a team of senior UW faculty members from several scientific departments who have been actively working on the science initiative for several weeks. They are:

— Greg Brown, task force member and head of the campus leadership team, associate dean of the UW College of Arts and Sciences and former head of the Department of Botany.

— Keith Carron, head of the UW Department of Chemistry.

— Danny Dale, head of the UW Department of Physics and Astronomy.

— Mark Lyford, director of the UW Life Sciences Program.

— Donal Skinner, head of the UW Department of Zoology and Physiology.

— Mark Stayton, head of the UW Department of Molecular Biology.

— Anne Sylvester, professor of molecular biology and UW EPSCoR program director.

— Cynthia Weinig, UW professor of botany.

— Dave Williams, head of the UW Department of Botany.

UW’s Science Initiative includes planning for remodeled and upgraded laboratory facilities and emphasizes existing research strengths.

“If Wyoming and its people are to prosper in an increasingly competitive global economy, UW’s students must be educated to meet head-on the challenges of that environment. And if Wyoming is to develop its own entrepreneurs and grow a diversity of businesses, then UW’s extraordinary scientific talent must have world-class laboratory facilities in which to teach and to undertake research,” UW President Dick McGinity says. “The university is delighted to work with the governor’s task force to carry out this exciting, important project.”

The task force expects to have a report by Nov. 1 to the governor, who then will submit any funding recommendations for program and facilities improvements to the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee.

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  1. I’m all for non-political discussion of improving facilities, incentives and quality of science at UW and state-wide. However, if this is an attempt to determine what science can be taught and studied, I can guarantee you that the national reputation of Wyoming will sink even lower. It’s time UW stands up for integrity over politics.

  2. Having worked in the field of science at UW for over 30 years I can tell you there are some simple solutions to improving scientific programs. Faculty needs to teach classes and especially labs rather than pawning those responsibilities off. They claim it is good experience for their graduate students to perform these duties for them. Well it isn’t a good experience for the undergraduates taking those classes. Students are ill trained in the sciences and they are not being taught basic scientific techniques and calculations. Instead they are being taught organic chemistry that is designed to fail at least 50% of the students taking that course. This is not a course that most scientist will use in their professional careers and if they do they will refer to the appropriate reference materials. Going back to the basics would be a good place to start such as teaching concentration calculations. Organic chemistry needs to be eliminated as a core curriculum requirement except for pharmacy and chemistry majors. We don’t need experts to fix our problems, we just need to look in the mirror. UW is more concerned with making money than educating and that is a sad and harsh truth. Its not rocket science.

  3. I sincerely hope this group actually intends to improve the science program at UW rather than alter it to fit a specific agenda. UW has been such a great research university and I am proud to have studied and worked there before moving on to my professional life. It would be a shame to lower the standard for corporate politics and greed.

  4. I don’t think WyoFile should be cynical about this distinguished panel. Remember when the University nearly eliminated its physics program? Input from a group like this should contribute to a stable, long-term approach to define both educational goals and research priorities.