FAES School Gets New Dean
By Sharon Ricks
Get ready, postdocs. After 40 years of being a place where senior professors enlighten NIH scientists on the biochemistry of gene replication or the intricacies of reproductive endocrinology, the FAES graduate school has a new dean with big ideas.
Dr. Paul Torrence, chief of the NIDDK biomedical chemistry section, was named dean of the school in January, and he wants to enhance the curriculum, offer more public-interest programs and involve NIH scientists at all levels.
Dr. Paul Torrence
"We'd like to make the curriculum more responsive to the needs of the NIH community and the Washington, D.C., area by including many of the frontiers of NIH research," says Torrence. "We have so much expertise here that we need to share."
He hopes to have more postdocs and others from the front lines of research involved. "This is not [only] a bearded senior professor deal," he adds. "It's a great opportunity for postdocs to gain teaching experience." Torrence also wants to create programs for the public on women's issues, alternative medicine, Alzheimer's, and AIDS.
"The need for mentoring postdocs through advanced courses has become more appreciated at NIH in the last 10 years," explains Dr. Alan Schechter, vice president of the FAES board of directors. He notes that in 1990 NIH opened the Office of Education as a resource for people seeking training at NIH, and in 1994, the fellows committee was formed to promote education and career development among NIH's 2,000 fellows. Torrence is looking forward to working with both groups.
"This is really a challenge to bring this all together," he says, "and it's going to require a lot of assistance from people at NIH."
Dr. Edward Rall, FAES president, says NIH has offered courses since the 1940's, but the Department of Agriculture, which had authority to pay instructors and charge fees, ran them. Since most of the instructors were from NIH, it was more reasonable that NIH run the program, and in the late 1950's a nonprofit foundation was formed.
FAES offers about 100 courses Monday through Thursday evenings, ranging from advanced Russian and Chinese literature to chemistry and molecular biology with laboratories in the Cloister. Although classes have prerequisites, they are open to government and nongovernment employees. Some 2,000 students enroll each year.
Torrence will be the school's second dean, replacing Dr. Louis Cohen, who died in September 1996 after 28 years in the position. Torrence has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a 29-year history with NIDDK.
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