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Columbia Spectator Staff

Gerald Navratil will fill in as interim dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science for the 2007-2008 academic year, University President Lee Bollinger announced today.

Navratil, a professor of the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, will be completing his thirtieth year at Columbia this July. He said that his biggest efforts as interim dean will focus on building off of the success of current dean Zvi Galil, who will be leaving his position this summer to become president of Tel Aviv University.

"I'm really pleased and honored to have the opportunity to contribute in this way," Navratil said, adding that he hopes to maintain the school's continuous efforts on quality undergraduate education and national-level cutting-edge research. "These last 10 years with dean Galil have been just wonderful for us. We don't want to lose any momentum."

Navratil came to Columbia as an assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering in 1977. Since then, he has helped establish the APAM department, which he chaired for over 10 years, has served as acting vice dean in 1995, and has been very active in the SEAS Long Range Planning Committee, according to an e-mail sent by Galil to the SEAS student body today.

The professor said that he will work with Galil through the month of May to familiarize himself with the position. "I'm going to be working with him [Galil], coming up to speed as we go through the budget cycle for the next academic year," Navratil said.

Provost Alan Brinkley said that he believes Navratil will be a wonderful dean, and that he is happy with the selection. "I hope that he [Navratil] would bring stability to the school in a time when most faculty in the school have known only one dean," he said. "His [Galil's] departure is, in some ways, a very traumatic experience for the school."

In the search for an interim dean, Bollinger and Brinkley interviewed three candidates, all affiliated with Columbia, who were recommended by a search committee comprised of the SEAS department heads, vice dean Mort Friedman, and dean Galil.

"We decided, for a number of reasons, that Jerry would be the most appropriate choice," Brinkley said. "He knows the school more than anyone. He has the right temperament and I think he'll be a very welcome leader at this school."

"As we look toward the future, we know that he [Galil] will have great success as president of Tel Aviv University and that the school he has led so energetically for the past dozen years will be in good hands under the stewardship of Interim Dean Navratil," Bollinger wrote in an e-mail announcing Navratil's appointment.

Bollinger and Brinkley will set up a search committee for the permanent dean over the next few weeks, but the committee won't start its search process until the fall. By spring of 2008, a permanent dean will be appointed. "It is a somewhat less formal process for choosing an interim dean," Brinkley said. "For a permanent dean, it will be a national and international search. The search committee will play a bigger role in the screening process."

Navratil is currently being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct fusion energy research. He came to Columbia in 1977, and has been a leader in developing thermonuclear fusion energy.

Galil, who was a student at TAU, has been at Columbia for 25 years, serving as the dean of SEAS for more than a decade. He is credited with integrating the school with the rest of the undergraduate community.

Galil was unavailable for comment, as he is currently traveling.