ultoday.com interviews Dr. Bradd Clark, Dean of the College of Science about activity with the College.

What's going on in the College of Sciences?

A lot is going on. One of the new things that needs to be highlighted is something I've been working on for a while. The National Science Foundation recently ranked our Mathematics program in the Top 100. Of course, Computer Science is in the Top 60, but they have been recognized for a while. Our Biology program is also very strong, but medical schools are ranked in biology, so breaking into the Top 100 there is a much larger task. But the arrival of Math is enormous. We're going to keep building on that, and we're targeting the Top 80 in the near future.

One of the things that has contributed to this recognition in Mathematics is a cross-fertilization with Biology. With the growth of mathematic modeling in biology, and the kinds of data that biologists are getting, there is a natural connection for predictive modeling.

Let me be abstract for a moment. We have three Departments in the College that grant doctorates, and those are our strongest departments: Biology, Computer Science, and Mathematics. Among those, Biology is extremely strong; the Dean of Sciences at a major national university recently remarked to me that he would like to trade biology departments with UL, even though his Department is much larger and better-known. He is aware of what not many people know, of the great strength of the UL Biology faculty and their research-- particularly their funded research, which is a key metric in academic assessments. There are larger biology departments in the state of Louisiana, but per faculty, UL's has more extramural funding than anyone.

So I am trying to connect these three Departments to pursue research in a cross-fertilization process. You can't have anything but success in this situation, and we're starting to see it. Azmy Ackleh in Mathematics, and Susan Mopper in Biology are doing major, major research. Azmy was awarded the Ray P. Authement Chair, for which he beat out all other applicants, some of whom were very strong. In fact, one of them was a prestigious European mathematician who had received a $60,000 award from Denmark, simply on the strength of his research. But the outside reviewer we brought into evaluate the applicants for the Authément Chair said Azmy was stronger.

So we're putting together a very powerful team to do mathematical modeling in Biology. Right now we're looking for a grid computing and supercomputing researcher who also knows "biospeak", to strengthen this initiative. This approach also ties all three of our doctoral programs into LONI.

Another area that is very exciting is the Bioprocessing initiative with Dean Mark Zappi of the UL College of Engineering. This is a very important opportunity and initiative for Renewable Resources, not to mention Chemistry, Microbiology, and others. I envision the Renewable Resources Department becoming very important in biofuels and bioprocessing. It's an entirely new direction for agriculture in Louisiana, and Renewable Resources will be making a significant contribution to the UL bioprocessing effort.

We've made significant hires in Chemistry, the most recent being Dr. Wu Xu who came to UL from St. Jude's Hospital. He's working in biochemistry with plant lipids, blood biochemsitry, and bioinformatics. Currently he's working with a new Assistant Professor in Engineering Yen-Shan Liu on several projects.

Another important faculty member in Chemistry is Salah Massoud. He works in inorganic chemistry and has over 60 publications. He came here from Ohio University, and his publication output has been prolific since he arrived at UL. We just promoted him to full Professor.

In the upcoming weeks, ultoday.com will publish a follow-up interview to discuss other Departments and initiatives.