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New dean of science settles in

Dr. Mark Abrahams

by Kelly Foss

Memorial University’s Faculty of Science has a new dean at the helm. Dr. Mark Abrahams took up the position on March 1. He has also been appointed professor of Biology/Ocean Sciences Centre. He succeeds Dr. Robert Lucas who held the top job since 1999.

Dr. Abrahams has spent the last 18 years at the University of Manitoba, most recently as the associate dean of science (research). He holds a B.SC. (honours) in zoology from the University of Western Ontario, a M.Sc. in biology from Queen’s University and a PhD in biology from Simon Fraser University.

Being new to both the province and the university, he believes his first priority is to get to know his new faculty and is looking forward to the challenges the role will bring.

“Nothing really happens until you understand the place,” he said. “When you do, then you can think about where you want to take it. I’ve been visiting all the departments to learn as much as I can about the great things that are going here and where individuals want to go so I can facilitate that process.

“That’s really how I view my role in the faculty, as someone that assists in the fulfillment of dreams, not someone who imposes a vision on people who might not necessarily share that view. “

While moving to Newfoundland and Labrador might not initially have been one of his goals in life, he believes he was led to Memorial University by a series of happy coincidences.

“It wasn’t really a career aspiration, I have to say that,” he said. “I guess I’ve always had a real passion for aquatic and marine research. As a consequence, I’ve come to know a lot of people at this university professionally, and some I’ve known for a very long time. So even though I never set foot on this campus until about two years ago, I already sort of felt I knew it to a certain extent. It wasn’t really that foreign to me.”

With ongoing commitments to Manitoba Hydro, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium, of which he is a founding member, Dr. Abrahams intends to keep a firm hand on his research.

“Those commitments don’t just sever when you move out of the province,” he said. “I moved here with every intention of maintaining and growing my research program. I have a laboratory at the Ocean Science Centre and have moved much of my research equipment there. I have a post doctorate fellow who will be managing the day-to-day operations of my lab and I currently supervise four grad students.

“I’ve always loved doing research, but certainly it’s going to be much more of a juggling act,” he added. “The reality is this is a very heavy administrative role that I’ve taken on and I’m committed to that, but I’m going to try and maintain my research program as best I can, even if it’s mostly going to be done vicariously through my graduate students and post doctorate fellows.”

The new dean enjoys skiing and hiking is excited to see what Newfoundland and Labrador has to offer.

“It’s a beautiful province, so getting out and exploring it when I get the opportunity is certainly a high priority,” he said. “I’ve brought my sailboat and I’m hoping to find a squash partner.”

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