Biology Professor Named Associate Dean

Rebecca E. Kohn, a Professor of Biology who has been a key part of several academic initiatives at Ursinus, has been named Associate Dean of Ursinus College.

In this role she will provide vision, leadership and management for objectives such as increasing student retention, advancing academic assessment, and furthering student engagement and achievement.

“Becky brings significant experience to the Dean’s Office,” said Lucien “Terry” Winegar, Ursinus Interim President and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. “Her demonstrated mentorship of students, scholarly work in biology, and considerable work with signature programs such as our Common Intellectual Experience, Center for Science and the Common Good, and Summer Fellows undergraduate research program, make her an excellent choice for this position.”

She will report to Interim Dean Peter F. Small, and joins Associate Dean Jay Miller and Assistant Dean Kneia DaCosta in the Office of Academic Affairs.

Dr. Kohn currently serves as Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and plays a key role in leading the review of the core curriculum as co-coordinator of the Core Curriculum Task Force. She was Chair of the Ursinus Working Group on Undergraduate Research that provided students with opportunities for summer and academic year research, creative work, travel to professional conferences and coordinated the Celebration of Student Achievement (CoSA). She was instrumental in recreating this group as the newly approved Student Achievement in Research and Creativity Committee.

As program director of a four-year, ongoing Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant, Dr. Kohn helped develop the Center for Science and the Common Good’s FUTURE (Fellowships in the Ursinus Transition to the Undergraduate Research Experience) Summer Research Program to encourage underserved students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields to begin research early in college, even before their first semester. Participants are encouraged to complete majors in science and stay on track for scientific careers.

 “Through my work with students in research, I have seen how immersion in an intellectual community connects students to the campus and helps them succeed in terms of retention as well as their success post graduation. Through my role in the dean’s office, I will be able to work on programs that reach students across our campus towards these same goals.”

One of Dr. Kohn’s early grants at Ursinus was a National Science Foundation CAREER grant with the goal of encouraging interest by female and minority students in biology research,  titled “Examining nervous system function in Caenorhabditis elegans.” Other  grants have included National Science Foundation RUI grant stipends for minority students to pursue summer research in her laboratory, and a National Science Foundation Research Opportunity Award.

In 2008 she was the recipient of the Laughlin Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement, Ursinus College. In 2007 she was a Fulbright Fellow at P. U. Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.

In her research laboratory, undergraduate students explore the function of the nervous system in the small worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) workingtoward understanding how neurons regulate the release of neurotransmitters into synapses and how neurons protect themselves from damage due to oxidative stress, important research in the greater understanding of nervous system. Students present their findings at scientific conferences and are included as co-authors on peer-reviewed publications, such as  Journal of Neuroscience, Molecular Neurobiology, and The Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education.

Dr. Kohn is a graduate of Dartmouth College with a major in biochemistry and earned her Ph.D. in biology from The Johns Hopkins University. She served as post-doctoral Fellow at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City where she developed a research program examining nervous system function in C. elegans. In addition to teaching in the Common Intellectual Experience she has taught courses in molecular neurobiology, cell biology and genetics.