Campus & community, Campus news, People, Profiles

Frances Hellman to head L&S Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Professor Frances Hellman will serve as Dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in the College of Letters and Science, effective Jan. 1, 2015. Hellman succeeds Mark Richards.

Sather Gate

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele made the following announcement in a message to the campus community today.

Dear Colleagues:

I am delighted to inform you that Professor Frances Hellman has accepted appointment as Dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in the College of Letters and Science, effective Jan. 1, 2015. I would also like to take this occasion to thank Mark Richards for his exceptional service to the College of Letters and Science, as Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences since 2002, and concurrently as Executive Dean of the College of Letters and Science since 2006.

Frances Hellman

Professor Frances Hellman

Frances Hellman joined the Physics Department at UC Berkeley in 2005 and served as chair of the department from 2007 to 2013. Her research in condensed matter physics and materials science is focused on understanding the physics of novel magnetic, semiconducting, and superconducting materials, especially in thin film form. In addition to her affiliation with the Physics Department, Frances has appointments in Berkeley’s Materials Science and Engineering Department, and in the Materials Sciences Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Frances has been on many national and local science boards, including the Executive Board of the American Physical Society, the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Board for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, the National Academies’ Board on Physics and Astronomy, the Department of Energy’s Division of Materials Science and Engineering Council, and the American Physical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Physics. She has been active in COSMOS, a statewide math and science summer program for high school students, and the SF Exploratorium, as well as other outreach organizations.

Frances received her BA in Physics from Dartmouth College in 1978 and her PhD in Applied Physics from Stanford University in 1985. She has been a fellow of the American Physical Society since 1997, and she was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013. She won the American Physics Society Keithley Instrumentation Award in 2006.

I am also very pleased to announce that Professor Emeritus Christopher McKee will serve as Interim Dean for the fall, 2014 semester. Chris was a faculty member in the Physics and Astronomy departments from 1974 to 2012, chairing the Physics Department from 2000 to 2004 and the Senate’s Budget Committee during 2008-09. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Chris and Frances will be taking the helm for Math & Physical Sciences following Mark Richards’s outstanding leadership. During his 8 years as Executive Dean, Mark tripled fundraising for the College of Letters and Science, pioneered the “On the Same Page” program, and led a comprehensive strategic planning initiative on undergraduate education that resulted in “Big Ideas” courses, an honor code for students, and new teaching excellence workshops for L&S faculty.

During Mark’s 12 years as Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, the division rose to the undisputed number one ranking overall across the mathematical and physical sciences, according to the National Research Council. This accomplishment is all the more remarkable against the backdrop of steep reductions state funding for the University. Mark has overseen planning and fundraising for a program of over $160 million earmarked for infrastructure improvements for the physical sciences, including three major building renovations, a new $80 million building for physics and astronomy, extensive renovation of LeConte Hall, and a new solar energy research building.

Additionally, Mark initiated a visionary strategy for increasing diversity among students and faculty in the mathematical and physical science fields. To advance this ideal, he created the California Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, the Berkeley Science Network, the Summer Math and Science Honors Academy, and the CalTeach program.  Under his leadership, the number of women faculty in the division has more than doubled.  In recognition of his distinguished contributions to campus diversity, Richards recently received the UC Berkeley Academic Senate’s Leon Henkin Award.

Mark will be putting his administrative duties aside to resume his scholarly pursuits as a Professor of Earth and Planetary Science and as a researcher of geological phenomena. I wish him continued success in his career, and I greatly look forward to working with Chris and Frances very soon.


Claude Steele
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost