Columbia is looking to increase the profile of its natural science departments through a new fundraising effort. Still in its early stages, the Columbia Science Initiative is scheduled to shift into high gear early next semester.
“The Columbia Science Initiative is definitely something new for Columbia,” said Amber Miller, dean of sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “We’ve had funding for the sciences here and there over the years, but I would say—from my memory—that this is the first time that we’re going to have a coherent plan with a budget attached.”
The nine natural science department chairs are currently putting together lists of projects that each department would like to see funded in the coming years. Miller, along with other administrators and the board of trustees, will review the departments’ overall proposal once it’s completed. Fundraising will begin after the proposal is finalized and a comprehensive interdepartmental vision is created.
“We’re trying to make this as inclusive as possible,” Miller said, noting that faculty input will be important. In addition to fundraising, Columbia is “trying to establish a new way of doing things, such as streamlining the way professors get grants, building relationships between their labs, helping them overcome compliance regulations,” she said.
“These things really create inconveniences in furthering research in the sciences, so we want to cut those to a minimum when we can,” Miller said. She added that one of her main goals for the initiative is to achieve global top-10 rankings for every natural sciences departments.
Statistics department chair David Madigan expressed enthusiasm for the project. He said that the initiative came out of the realization that fundraising for the natural sciences has often been neglected at Columbia.
“Under Amber’s leadership, we’re really trying to be more aggressive in presenting science to the community and raising the profile of science at Columbia, since we’ve got a lot to be proud of,” he said. Miller took on the newly created dean of sciences role in April 2011.
Although neither Miller nor Madigan would comment extensively on specific projects they would like to see funded, both shared a few of their ideas. Miller said she would like to create a post-doctoral fellowship program modeled after the Harvard Society of Fellows, and Madigan said that he would like to see more joint hires between different departments.
Jerry Kisslinger, CC ’79 and chief creative officer at the Office of Alumni and Development, said that he is excited to start working with potential donors once a proposal is finalized.
“I’m delighted to participate in this, which is very important to the development of the sciences at Columbia and very important to cultivating appreciation of the sciences for undergrads, grads, and faculty alike,” he said.