UC Davis has named as its new dean of the College of Biological Sciences immunologist James E.K. Hildreth, whose team made a key discovery about cholesterol’s role in HIV’s ability to penetrate cells.
UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi said in a news release she believes Hildreth will lead the college to a “leadership position both nationally and internationally.”
Hildreth leads the Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research at Meharry Medical College, a historically black academic health science center in Nashville, Tenn. He is set to join UCD on Aug. 1.
In 2001, Hildreth’s research team found that removing cholesterol from a cell’s membrane can block infection. That discovery has enabled the development of topical microbicides — chemical condoms — to block transmission of the virus, according to the news release.
The work took place while Hildreth was serving as chief of the division of research for the National Institutes of Health’s National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
“James’ résumé and experience in the lab and in the classroom make him the ideal candidate to lead and mentor a faculty and student body that represent the promise of biological sciences across our nation and around the world,” said UCD Provost Ralph Hexter, who oversaw the search.
Hildreth will replace Ken Burtis, who has served as dean of the College of Biological Sciences since its founding in 2005.
Burtis plans to take a one-year administrative leave, during which he will focus on his work on developing new approaches to premedical education and increasing research opportunities for underrepresented and disadvantaged students, before returning to the classroom, according to the news release.
Hildreth will serve as dean to 125 faculty, 5,312 undergraduates enrolled in 10 majors, 455 graduate students enrolled in eight graduate groups and 397 full-time-equivalent staff. He will manage an annual budget of nearly $90 million, including some $60 million for research.
He also will hold faculty appointments in molecular and cellular biology and in microbiology. He plans to continue his AIDS research while dean.
He will receive an annual base salary of $350,000.
Hildreth said in the news release that he looks forward to working with undergraduates.
Earlier in his career, during a stint as associate dean for graduate student affairs at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, he created a summer research program for underrepresented minorities and recruited graduate students.
“Almost every year, I invite a few undergraduates to work in my lab,” Hildreth said. “Undergrads ask the questions no one else thinks to ask, and sometimes they come up with the answers no one else has thought of. They bring their own particular energy and spark to the lab work and the discussions.”
Hildreth joined Meharry’s medical school faculty and accepted the directorship of its AIDS research center in 2005. Meharry boasts about 790 students and 218 faculty.
In 1979, Hildreth graduated magna cum laude in chemistry from Harvard University. He attended Oxford University in England as a Rhodes scholar, earning his doctorate in immunology in 1982.
Five years later, he earned his medical degree at Johns Hopkins. He joined its faculty after graduation.
Under Burtis, a UCD graduate, the College of Biological Sciences’ research budget grew more than 40 percent. He has served as lead dean for the Genome Center, the Center for Neuroscience and the Center for Population Biology.
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