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Bloxham To Step Down as Dean of Science

University Hall
University Hall holds the main administrative offices of FAS.

Geophysics professor Jeremy Bloxham will end his tenure as dean of science for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 academic year, after a decade serving as the inaugural administrator in this role.

Bloxham, who studies how planets generate magnetic fields, was first appointed FAS divisional dean for physical sciences in Aug. 2006, succeeding Venkatesh “Venky” Narayanamurti, a technology and physics professor at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. After the integration of the life and physical sciences divisions in Fall 2007, Bloxham assumed leadership of the combined FAS science division. As dean of sciences, Bloxham has overseen the division’s finances, coordinated departments’ academic planning, and advised FAS Dean Michael D. Smith on faculty appointments within the division.

According to colleagues, Bloxham will continue his work in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department after stepping down from his administrative role.

“We are all deeply appreciate of Jeremy’s service as Science Dean, and look forward to welcoming him back to the Department,” EPS Department Chair John H. Shaw wrote in an emailed statement.

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Kimberly M. Moore, a graduate student in Bloxham’s research group, praised his commitment to his work as dean of science.

“He’s been dean for a long time,” Moore said. “He’s done a lot of service for the university.”

Bloxham currently serves as a co-investigator for NASA’s Juno probe, which is a spacecraft that began orbiting Jupiter in 2016 to study the structure and interior of the planet.

“Jeremy and his group, they’ve been working on computer simulations to understand, when we measure these magnetic fields around Jupiter, what does that mean in terms of the interior structure? What’s going on inside of Jupiter?” EPS professor Roger R. Fu ’09 said.

Fu said that although Bloxham’s focus is on theory and modeling of planetary fields, he has also made contributions to the collection and processing of recorded data.

“One thing that Jeremy does really well, I’ve always felt, is that he’s not just purely a modeler,” Fu said. “He did some really interesting work, like compiling some really old ship records over the last few centuries, to keep track of magnetic field variations on the surface of the Earth… So he kind of crosses the line towards observations also, and it’s very impressive when someone does both things.”

Astronomy Department Chair Abraham “Avi” Loeb commended Bloxham’s dedication as dean and said Bloxham’s background as a scientist brought a valuable perspective to the position.

“We were very fortunate to have him as dean of science throughout the past 12 years,” Loeb said. “As a scientist, he had a very good understanding and sympathy for science and promoted science in the best way possible here at Harvard.”

Loeb said Bloxham was instrumental in helping increase the diversity of tenure-track hires in the Astronomy department.

“Over the past seven years that I was department chair, Dean Bloxham was very generous with us,” Loeb said. “He would listen to our concerns and do the best he could, and he would always try to be on our side and help us in different ways.”

“I think it stemmed from the fact that he was truly a scientist,” he added. “He knew where we were coming from.”

According to Loeb, Bloxham also played an integral role in the establishment of the Black Hole Initiative, an interdisciplinary center dedicated to the study of black holes.

“[Bloxham] and Dean Smith provided us with the space for the Black Hole Initiative, which is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the best places at the University to be in,” said Loeb, who is the Black Hole Initiative’s director. “It’s not just the space—they also provided us with the support to renovate the building from its previous configuration. On behalf of the Black Hole Initiative, without Dean Bloxham, it wouldn’t be the way it is now and wouldn’t be as successful as it is now.”

In 2007, The Crimson reported that Bloxham declined an offer by then-University President-elect Drew G. Faust to become FAS dean in order to stay on as the dean of physical science.

Loeb said Bloxham—as the inaugural holder of his position—fundamentally shaped the science deanship during his tenure.

“The position of dean of science emerged with Jeremy, and he gave it meaning that we very much appreciate,” Loeb said.

The Harvard Magazine reported in March that Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana and Smith have begun a search for Bloxham’s successor.

—Staff writer Amy L. Jia can be reached at amy.jia@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyLJia.

—Staff writer Sanjana L. Narayanan can be reached at sanjana.narayanan@thecrimson.com.

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