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New Watson dean looks to make a difference


Seshu Desu, distinguished professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, will become the next dean of the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Desu will assume his new responsibilities this summer, filling the position vacated by Charles R. Westgate, who is retiring after six years as dean.

Desu holds a BS in mathematics, physics and chemistry, and an MS in inorganic chemistry from Andhra University in Waltair, India; an M. Tech in materials science from Indian Institute of Tech-nology (IIT), Kanpur, India; and a PhD in materials science and engineering, with a minor in electrical engineering, from the University of Illinois, Urbana.

He headed his department at the Uni-versity of Massachusetts from January 1999 to August 2006. Under his leadership, the department incorporated several educational innovations, increased its research expenditures from $3.5 million to $8.5 million, won the most-coveted National Science Foundation-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) and secured two endowed professorships.

He has served as a professor, jointly appointed to the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, at Virginia Tech., where he also directed the Center for Advanced Ceramic Materials and he has seven years of industrial experience as group leader at GE and a member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories.

“I’m pleased that the Watson School will continue to grow and prosper under the leadership of someone with Dr. Desu’s experience,” said President Lois B. DeFleur. “His energy and enthusiasm, coupled with his desire to excel, will serve us well.”

“Dr. Desu brings a distinguished record of research and numerous accomplish-ments as an administrator to this deanship,” said Provost Mary Ann Swain. “His vision for the Watson school fully complements the University’s strategic initiative to expand research and grow graduate education, while sustaining excellence at the undergraduate level. I look forward to working with him.”

“The Watson School, from the beginning, has thought about the opportunity to make an impact on society and it has a very good track record,” Desu said. “I like the culture of excellence I find here. It resonates with me.  I believe in a value system that always enhances the well being of others and the planet. ”

Desu said he hopes to make the Watson School into a magnet for meritorious students. “Attracting and retaining a large number of the highest quality faculty and creating an environment that would unleash their potential is the key,” he said.   

Desu will “listen and learn” as he steps into his new duties. “I would like to hear from everyone what their personal aspir-ations are; I would want to translate their aspirations and capture their imagination for charting a path for the Watson School to the next mountain top,” he said.

Describing himself as “a big idea person,” Desu also knows the value of minding the details. “If you do small things well, or best, over time they will add up and become the big things,” Desu said. “I believe that the secret to success is to do common things uncommonly well.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08