Melina Hale

Effective July 1, 2023, Melina E. Hale, PhD’98, the William Rainey Harper Professor in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and the College and a vice provost of the University, will be the next dean of the College. (Photography by Jean Lachat)

UChicago news highlights

A selection of the latest headlines from across campus.

Provost Baicker

Katherine Baicker, the Emmett Dedmon Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy, became the 15th provost of the University of Chicago on March 20. An expert in the economic analysis of health care policy, Baicker oversaw Harris as it increased its tenure-track faculty, strengthened areas such as energy and environmental policy and urban policy, and introduced curricular innovation across multiple degrees. A leader in diversity and inclusion efforts, as dean she launched a process that resulted in Harris Public Policy’s Diversity and Inclusion Roadmap. Baicker succeeded Provost Ka Yee C. Lee, who transitioned into the role of executive vice president for strategic initiatives.

Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, AB’96, the Sydney Stein Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy, was appointed interim dean of the school effective March 1. Bueno de Mesquita, whose research focuses on applications of game theory to political phenomena, joined the University in 2007 and had served as a deputy dean at Harris since 2011.

Dean Hale

Melina E. Hale, PhD’98, the William Rainey Harper Professor in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and the College and a vice provost of the University, will be the next dean of the College, effective July 1. A neuroscientist with interest in biomechanics, Hale joined the University faculty in 2002 and has provided support and guidance to academic centers and institutes as vice provost. As dean she will oversee a strategic vision for the College’s next chapter, playing a crucial role in upholding and advancing the University’s and the College’s fundamental values, including freedom of expression. Hale will succeed John W. Boyer, AM’69, PhD’75, the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of History, who has served as dean of the College since 1992 and will become senior advisor to the president. (Read an interview with Boyer in “Peerless.”)

Chemistry laureate

Chuan He, who shares the Wolf Prize in Chemistry 2023 with two other chemists, was honored for his discovery of reversible RNA methylation and its role in gene expression. Awarded by the Israeli-based Wolf Foundation, the annual prize honors the greatest achievements in agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, physics, medicine, and the arts. The John T. Wilson Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, He helped open a new field in biology known as epitranscriptomics.

A leader for ARD

Armin Afsahi was appointed vice president of Alumni Relations and Development, effective April 1. Previously at Harvard University, Afsahi served as associate vice president of alumni affairs and development and dean of development for the faculty of arts and sciences. He was responsible for a global development team of nearly 200 professionals that generated more than $500 million annually. Afsahi has also held senior roles at the University of California, San Diego; Georgetown University; and the University of Denver. At UChicago he will lead all aspects of fundraising strategy and activity, alumni engagement, and management of the alumni relations and development team.

Community conduit

Christian Mitchell, AB’08, the deputy governor for public safety, infrastructure, environment, and energy under Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker, was named vice president for civic engagement at UChicago beginning April 1. As a deputy governor, Mitchell managed multiple state agencies, including the Departments of Transportation, Military Affairs, and Innovation and Technology. He also led several complex statewide initiatives, including the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act for equity-based renewable energy. In his new role, Mitchell will be responsible for fostering University-wide partnerships with the South Side as well as with the University’s Chicago-based stakeholders.


Melody Swartz, the William B. Ogden Professor at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering and cofounder of the Chicago Immunoengineering Innovation Center, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Her research investigates lymphatic transport and immunobiology, informing novel approaches for cancer immunotherapy and vaccination. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice, or education, particularly as it relates to developing fields of technology or advancements in traditional fields of engineering. Election to the academy is among the highest professional distinctions for engineers. Swartz will be formally inducted in October.

Computing fellow

Neubauer Professor of Computer Science Heather Zheng has been elected as a fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery, the largest and most prestigious society of computing professionals. Zheng, who codirects the SAND Lab (Security, Algorithms, Networking and Data), was recognized for her work in wireless networking and mobile computing. She has led or co-led projects to develop protection against facial recognition models and eavesdropping smart devices, as well as to expose security vulnerabilities from Internet of Things devices and Wi-Fi transmissions.