New science dean faces challenges

September 23, 2004, vol. 31, no. 2
By Stuart Colcleugh

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Congratulations should be in order for the university's new science dean, but that's not what many of Michael Plischke's contemporaries have been offering during the last few weeks.

“The word they usually use is ‘condolences,'” says the 28-year veteran SFU physics professor, who begins a four-year mandate this semester after serving as acting science dean since June 2003.

And considering the challenges he faces, Plischke's colleagues may be only half kidding.

The most pressing, he says, is the creation of a science department at the Surrey campus.

“There are a number of difficulties associated with it, including how we're going to develop the program, where we're going to house it, what shape it's going to take and how we're going to recruit the same quality of students and faculty we have on Burnaby Mountain.”

Then there is faculty renewal, a process he says is largely complete: “We want to ensure that the quality that we have established over the first 40 years is maintained in the future, especially in the current very competitive environment.”

But along with challenges Plischke sees some exciting opportunities. A big one is the leadership chair program established in 2002 with the help of the B.C. government's Leading Edge Endowment Fund (LEEF) to promote the province as a centre of excellence for research and development.

“We're well on our way to identifying a potential chair holder for salmon conservation and management,” he says, “and we've started the process of fundraising. We're very likely going to put forward another proposal in the area of vaccine development - bio-informatics.

“The new faculty of health sciences and our interaction with it is another very important new initiative. We already have on our faculty a number of people who will be very heavily involved with that.”

Plischke, a condensed matter theorist, was raised in Montreal where he received a BSc from Loyola College, followed by a master's degree in physics from Yale and a PhD from Yeshiva University in Manhattan.

He chaired the physics department from 1988-1993 and 1998-2003.

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