Neurobiologist Appointed Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

Susan Birren
Mike Lovett
Susan Birren

Susan J. Birren, an internationally recognized figure in the field of developmental neurobiology, became dean of Brandeis’ College of Arts and Sciences July 1, replacing economics professor Adam Jaffe, who will return to the department after a one year sabbatical in 2011–12.

“I am excited about taking on the challenge of fostering the research and educational missions of all components of the university so that scholarship in all fields of the liberal arts can flourish,” Birren says.

Provost-elect Steve Goldstein (see story, p. 3) says, “Susan has the wisdom to promote what is essential to each of the disciplines in the arts and sciences while working closely with each of the four schools, with the different groups within the schools, and across disciplinary boundaries.”

Birren received a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the University of California at Los Angeles and did postdoctoral work at the California Institute of Technology, where she studied the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the development of the mammalian nervous system.

Her research program focuses on understanding how functional circuits are established during nervous system development. Her work has helped define the properties of nervous system stem cells and has elucidated the functions of key molecules in the neural control of cardiac function and in the development of brain circuits that are disrupted in human developmental disorders. Birren’s interest in nervous system development is also reflected in her teaching, which includes a course on developmental biology and an interdisciplinary course on autism and human developmental disorders.