New Dean to Grow Research Footprint


Valery Forbes, Ph.D., Dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science
Florida Atlantic

Faculty Spotlight: New Dean to Grow Research Footprint

Florida Atlantic’s push to increase research activity inspired Valery Forbes, Ph.D., to become the new dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

Veteran ecological researcher Valery Forbes, Ph.D., understands that research is key to growth — and Florida Atlantic’s push to increase research activity is one of the things that inspired her to become the new dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

“It’s energizing to be part of an ambitious university with a bold strategic plan,” Forbes said. “High on my agenda is strengthening the College of Science’s research portfolio and bolstering the university’s trajectory toward R1 research status.”

Awarded by the Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education, R1 status recognizes “Very High Research Activity,” and is the highest and most coveted designation among research universities. This status will position Florida Atlantic as one of the nation’s top academic institutions.

As the former dean of the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota (UMN), Forbes oversaw a $100 million budget. She secured partnerships with government and industry, grew enrollments while maintaining high admissions standards and launched the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Program.

Forbes said that she plans to draw on her previous leadership experience to grow the College of Science, which has academic and research footprints across three campuses and is home to some of the university’s most popular majors.

“As one of the largest colleges at FAU, it is essential that we not only have strong researchers, but that we have research leaders who want to create synergistic partnerships across FAU and beyond,” Forbes said. “I plan to help faculty attract larger, multi-partner grants and projects, reduce administrative barriers for faculty to lead major collaborative research efforts, institute seed funding and provide increased opportunities for faculty to step up and allow them to lead high-impact research initiatives in our areas of strength.”

Forbes also is an enterprising researcher and academic leader with international experience that pairs well with Florida Atlantic’s thriving scientific community. She works extensively with industry and is collaborating with Syngenta Crop Science to develop models to predict the risks of pesticides and other stressors to threatened and endangered species. Additionally, she received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to examine how different mammalian species respond at the cellular level to changes in their environment.

Prior to her time at UMN, Forbes served as director of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She also was the founding department head and professor in the Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial Change at Roskilde University in Denmark. Forbes received a doctorate in coastal oceanography and a master’s degree in marine environmental science from Stony Brook University in New York.

“My research has been extremely international, and I envision establishing greater international partnerships, and reinforcing current relationships with renowned research partners, such as the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience,” Forbes said. “We have the only Max Planck Institute in North America in our backyard — that is certainly a feather in our cap and should be nurtured.”

Forbes added that she is looking forward to deepening ties with FAU’s fellow colleges and research institutes. “I am very excited about the new FAU Health Network, given that so much of the college’s research and education impact the health sciences,” she said. “I believe the Schmidt College of Science is well positioned to contribute and lead in the FAU Health Network initiative, working with FAU and community partners to cultivate a vigorous health network for our region.”

The new dean’s background also includes leading major capital projects. Most recently, Forbes oversaw the development of a $110 million biomanufacturing innovation center at UMN, which will grow the institution’s footprint in biotechnology and provide a new revenue stream. As part of the university’s recent philanthropic campaign, Forbes exceeded her college’s fundraising goal a year ahead of schedule — and with major success in raising funds for student scholarships.

In addition to broadening FAU’s outreach to scientific and community partners, Forbes is prioritizing student success as a key part of her plans for the college.

“Increasing opportunities for students to do research with world-class faculty, and paying them a reasonable wage to do so, is something we are uniquely positioned to do,” she said. “I’ve seen the impact this can have on both students and faculty, and it is something I definitely want to promote. Providing authentic research experiences for undergraduates can be life changing.”

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