Christine Ortiz, professor of materials science and engineering, has been appointed the Institute’s next dean for graduate education, effective Aug. 1, Chancellor Phillip L. Clay announced Monday.
“Professor Ortiz brings considerable experience to graduate student issues,” Clay said in a letter to graduate students, faculty and staff. “Her development and leadership of major projects at MIT and leadership in her profession have been recognized by her peers and in numerous awards.”
Ortiz, whose research in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) focuses on the structure and mechanics of biological materials, will replace Steven R. Lerman, who announced in March that he would become provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at George Washington University. He had been dean for graduate education since 2007.
In her new role, Ortiz will collaborate with students, faculty and staff across the Institute on issues related to graduate education and research and will focus on increasing graduate-student opportunities for academic, professional and personal development. She will also facilitate the advancement and information exchange of graduate curricula, formulate new ways to grow the graduate-student community and strive to provide a better understanding and enhancement of the climate and level of diversity in the graduate student population.
“I am deeply grateful for the honor and opportunity to work on behalf of and as an advocate for MIT’s extraordinary graduate student population,” said Ortiz, adding that she hopes to build on the “outstanding achievements” of Lerman and his staff. “I am, to this day, continually awed by the intellectual depth, creativity, work ethic and unbridled enthusiasm of MIT graduate students. They are truly at the core of what makes MIT such a remarkable institution.”
A member of the MIT faculty since 1999, Ortiz has served as a member or chair on several department, school and institute committees, including those that focus on undergraduate and graduate education, mentoring, international strategy and diversity. She is a member of MIT’s Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity and is often invited to speak at panels and workshops geared to improving the experiences of underrepresented minority students and faculty members. In 2009, she received a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award for recognition of service that reflects the late civil rights leader's ideals and vision.
As chair of the DMSE Departmental Committee on Graduate Students since 2008, Ortiz helped lead an extensive review and revision of the department’s graduate curriculum. She is also the founding and current faculty director of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI)-Israel international exchange program.
“Professor Ortiz will bring creative energy to her work with graduate students and faculty,” Clay said. “In selecting her, we were impressed with the thoughtfulness that characterizes how she deals with students and faculty.”
Ortiz, described by Clay as “a prolific researcher,” received her BS from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and both her MS and PhD from Cornell University, all in the field of materials science and engineering.
As leader of MIT’s Ortiz Bionanomechanics Laboratory, which currently has 16 students and postdoctoral associates, Ortiz studies how the nanoscale properties of high-strength, lightweight biological materials could be transferred to synthetic materials.
Her leadership achievements at MIT and in her profession have been recognized by her peers and in awards, including the National Science Foundation Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, which was presented to her by former President George W. Bush. In 2008, she won the National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow Award from the Department of Defense.
Ulric Ferner, president of the Graduate Student Council, welcomed the news of Ortiz’s appointment. “She has an impressive background of both professional and service work at MIT, and this puts her in an ideal position to be dean. This includes extensive curriculum development, the MIT Students for Israel program and countless community building initiatives,” Ferner said. “She brings a host of creative ideas and strong leadership to this office, and we look forward to working with her over the coming years.”
Daniel Hastings, dean for undergraduate education, is also “delighted” that Ortiz is joining the chancellor’s team as the dean for graduate education. “I know she is committed to the welfare of our students, and I look forward to continuing to work with her,” he said.
The search advisory committee was chaired by Steven C. Graves and in addition to Ferner, members included Professors Martin L. Culpepper, John A. Ochsendorf and Maria Zuber and Associate Deans Karen K. Gleason and Kai von Fintel.