USU names new Biology Department head

LOGAN – Utah State University announces the appointment of Alan H. “Al” Savitzky as head of the university’s Department of Biology. Selected following a nationwide search, Savitzky has served on the faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia’s Old Dominion University since 1982. He takes the helm of the College of Science’s largest department July 1. “We are very excited to have a scientist and educator of Al Savitzky’s caliber joining our team,” says James MacMahon, dean of USU’s College of Science. “Al brings a rich background in teaching, research and administration, as well as a genuine enthusiasm for science.” Savitzky’s research focuses on the anatomy, evolution and conservation of amphibians and reptiles – especially snakes. He is co-author of the widely used textbook “Herpetology,” now in its third edition, and has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals. In addition to his tenure at ODU, Savitzky served as program director for the National Science Foundation’s Division of Biological Infrastructure in the Directorate for Biological Sciences from 2008 to 2010. His professional service includes terms as president of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists and the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Savitzky was honored with the 2007 Robert K. Johnson Award for Excellence in Service by the ASIH. In 2002, he received ODU’s Gene W. Hirschfeld Faculty Excellence Award in recognition of his exemplary service as an educator, mentor and researcher. A native of Connecticut, Savitzky earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado in 1972. He completed a master’s degree in 1974 and a doctorate in 1979, both from the University of Kansas. “It is a great privilege to be invited to lead such a dedicated and dynamic team of faculty and staff,” Savitzky says. “Though the department faces such challenges as accommodating increasing enrollments and presenting the rapidly expanding body of biological knowledge, our goals include expanding opportunities for our undergraduates and graduate students to engage with their global peers and reaching out to a broader constituency to increase the diversity of future biologists.” “The biology faculty is very pleased that Al has agreed to serve as the new department head,” says Edmund “Butch” Brodie, Jr., professor and current department head. “Al is a seasoned educator and administrator and he is especially well known for his research on the use of toad toxins by snakes for their own defense.” Savitzky succeeds Brodie, who has headed the department since the departure of Daryll DeWald in January 2011. DeWald, who led the department from 2006 to 2010, left USU to serve as dean of Washington State University’s College of Science. One of USU’s largest academic departments, the Department of Biology received the university’s Department Teaching Excellence Award in 2009. The department’s advising center assists students of all majors throughout the university in preparing for admission to medical and dental schools and other graduate programs in health and biological sciences. The number of USU graduates accepted into medical, dental and other professional schools consistently exceeds national averages.

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