Since plant ecologist and professor Bruce Pavlik’s sudden departure in 2012, there has been an ongoing search for someone to take his place in the Mills biology department. Dr. Sarah M. Swope, currently a visiting assistant professor at Mills College, has officially been hired to take Pavlik’s place and is now on her way to getting tenured.
As of now, the announcement has only been made official amongst the students and faculty of the science department at Mills via email. The formal announcement will be made to the whole college in May by the Provost’s Office once it is approved by the Board of Trustees.
“We are excited to welcome Dr. Swope as a colleague because of her strong program of research on native and endangered plants, her exemplary teaching and her strong commitment to increasing diversity among biologists,” Dr. Lisa Urry, biology department head, wrote in the statement.
It took the biology department over a year to get approval to start the faculty candidate search in Feb. 2013 because the department is only allowed to hire faculty for the next academic year. The candidate search committee consisted of Urry, the biology department faculty and an outside committee member, Dr. Priya Shimpi, assistant professor of education. According to Urry, out of 90 applications, the department narrowed them down to three candidates.
Along with an interview and a campus visit, the candidates were required to give a research talk and a sample class instruction on a given topic. The input for each candidate was solicited from a wide range of students, faculty and staff who attended the talks.
Swope has taught on and off at Mills since Spring 2011. She has also done research with Mills students since 2010 and co-authored a publication titled ‘Biological Invasions’ with a Mills College undergraduate student in 2012.
Swope has many ideas to improve the biology department, such as providing research opportunities for students.
“We are going to do some pretty big remodeling to the greenhouse so we can do some research out there,” Swope said. “There are two large research projects going on there that students can participate in.”
New biology professor chosen after two-year wait
Swope also hopes that her strong connections with conservation and research organizations such as The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy will help foster relationships between them and Mills.
“One of my goals is to really help students get jobs and internships after graduation in these organizations,” Swope said. “These are really world-class organizations that we have here.”
Swope thinks that one of the most important contributions Mills can make is to educate and train outstanding women — particularly women of color — in the sciences.
Sophomore Devon Thrumston, a biology major who is on Swope’s research team and is taking General Biology II with her, is glad to have the opportunity to continue working with her.
“As a student of Dr. Swope’s, I’m overjoyed to have the opportunity to continue to work and learn with her,” Thrumston said.
Sophomore Geneva Lee, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, is excited for Swope to have a more solid position.
“I am extremely excited because she is extremely qualified,” Lee said. “She is very collaborative and she is very supportive of letting you pursue your own interests within the scope of her research.”
Although Swope has been teaching at Mills for several years, she said she is thrilled about her new position.
“It feels really good to be here, permanently now,” Swope said.
To learn more about Swope’s research, credentials, and interests, go to http://www.sarahmswope.com/.