Tufts Names Neuroscientist Joanne Berger-Sweeney Dean of Arts and Sciences

July 15, 2010

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MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass.--Tufts University has named neuroscientist Joanne Berger-Sweeney, Ph.D., M.P.H., as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences – the largest school at the university – effective August 23, 2010.   Berger-Sweeney was the Associate Dean of Wellesley College, where she was also the Allene Lummis Russell Professor in Neuroscience. She has been on the faculty at Wellesley since 1991 and was named Associate Dean in 2004.

In addition to her scholarship, she is widely recognized for her efforts to increase diversity in the biological sciences. 

Her honors include being recognized in 2010 as one of the five most influential African-American biomedical scientists in America by the HistoryMakers, a national nonprofit research and educational organization; being named a Fellow by the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience; and receiving a Lifetime Mentoring Achievement Award from the Society for Neuroscience in 2006 and a National Science Foundation Young Investigator award.  

"Joanne Berger-Sweeney is an esteemed researcher, a passionate teacher and mentor, and a talented administrator whose leadership is characterized by collaboration, creativity, and inclusiveness – attributes that are also central to the values of Tufts University and the School of Arts and Sciences," said Tufts Provost and Senior Vice President Jamshed Bharucha. "She will be an outstanding addition to an exceptional team."

As Associate Dean of Wellesley College, Joanne Berger-Sweeney oversaw 20 academic departments and programs. From 2004 to 2006, she also served as director of the Neurosciences Program at Wellesley and helped spearhead the creation of that cross-disciplinary major. She sought to improve faculty recruitment, retention, and professional development, and was responsible for strategic planning initiatives relating to faculty diversity, interdisciplinary programs, and non-tenure track faculty. Berger-Sweeney also demonstrated a strong commitment to other issues that are priorities for Tufts, including need-blind admissions and increased financial aid.

Her passion for teaching is reflected in the impressive accomplishments of the undergraduates, graduate students, and fellows she has guided. She has been active in the Minority Mentoring Program at Wellesley for more than a decade. From 1995 to 2006, she directed the Society for Neuroscience’s Minority Neuroscience Fellowship Program, a federally-funded training grant to provide predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships to underrepresented minorities engaging in neuroscience research.

Learning, Memory and Disease

Joanne Berger-Sweeney's research focuses on the neurobiology of learning and memory. She has helped to advance understanding of normal memory and cognitive processes and how these processes malfunction in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Rett syndrome and Alzheimer's disease.

A 1979 graduate of Wellesley, Joanne Berger-Sweeney received an M.P.H. in environmental health sciences from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1981, and a Ph.D. in neurotoxicology from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in 1989. Following her graduate training, she worked for two years at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), a multidisciplinary public health research institution in France.

She is a member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, and has served on numerous national and professional boards and committees. She has been a member of the Behavioral Neuroscience Review Panel of the National Science Foundation, a member of an NIH Study Section panel, and a member of the editorial board of Behavioral Neuroscience. She was also treasurer for the Society for Neuroscience.

A Time of Growth for Tufts

Joanne Berger-Sweeney's appointment comes at a time of growth and accomplishment for Tufts and the School of Arts and Sciences. The school is among the most selective in the U.S. and attracts students from more than 50 countries. Arts and Sciences' strength in interdisciplinary research is reflected in its recent receipt of a $9.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Research Resources to create research space for a Collaborative Cluster in Genome Structure and Developmental Patterning in Health and Disease. A $1.2 billion university-wide capital campaign has raised more than $1.1 billion. This includes more than $430 million for Arts and Sciences, including a recent $30 million commitment by Edward and Vivian Merrin for undergraduate scholarships.

About Tufts University

Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university's schools is widely encouraged.