CNSM Deans: Past & Present

Meet our current dean, Kinchel C. Doerner

Kinchel C. Doerner

Kinchel C. Doerner was named dean of the College of Natural Science and Mathematics in May 2019, after previously serving as the dean of the Graduate School at South Dakota State University.

While at SDSU he served as the interim vice president of research and economic development as well as the interim dean of the newly formed College of Natural Sciences, which houses the departments of Biology and Microbiology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Physics, and Geography. Doerner oversaw the approval of many master’s and doctoral programs, improved the legal and policy framework for graduate education, and facilitated efforts to expand graduate education to American Indians and tribal colleges.

Doerner received a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He spent four years as a postdoctoral research scientist at the Medical College of Virginia-Virginia Commonwealth University and 16 years at Western Kentucky University, where he achieved the rank of full professor of biology. While at WKU he also served as interim dean of Graduate Studies and Research.

Doerner has served on the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance Cabinet and on the board of directors for the Council of Graduate Schools.

Here are the past deans who have helped shape our college into what it is today:

Leah Berman 

  • July 2018-August 2019 Interim Dean

Leah Wrenn Berman Williams currently serves as a mathematician at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She specializes in discrete geometry. At the University of Alaska, she is a professor of mathematics, the head of the department of mathematics and statistics. She served as the interim dean of the College of Natural Science and Mathematics.

Berman earned her doctorate in mathematics from the University of Washington in 2002, and was hired as an associate professor at UAF in 2009.

Berman's research involves discrete geometry, particularly the geometry of configurations of points and lines. Her accomplishments include construction of the first known movable configurations with four points per line and four lines through each point.[2] Along with another mathematician at the University of Alaska, Jill Faudree, she has developed methods for constructing highly symmetric configurations with as many as six points per line and six lines through each point.

Anupma Prakash

  • February 2018-July 2018 Interim Dean

Anupma Prakash was named interim dean of the College of Natural Science & Mathematics in February 2018, after which she became provost and executive vice chancellor of the University of Alaska Fairbanks in July 2018.

Prakash joined the college’s Department of Geosciences faculty and the Geophysical Institute in 2002. She has contributed extensively to remote sensing-based mapping of Alaska’s natural resources and changing landscape. Prakash is also internationally recognized for her research on underground coal mine fires. At UAF, she has served as director of both the CNSM Division of Research and the National Science Foundation-funded Alaska Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

Prakash conducted postdoctoral research with the Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) faculty at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. She has a Ph.D. in earth sciences from the Indian Institute of Technology-Roorkee in India. She earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees in geology from Lucknow University, India.

Paul Layer

  • 2009-2011 Interim Dean
  • 2011-2017 Dean

Paul Layer was named dean of the College of Natural Science & Mathematics in January 2011. Layer has been at UAF since 1989, and served as the interim dean of CNSM since 2009.

Layer received his bachelor of science in geology from Michigan State University, and his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in geophysics from Stanford University. He spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, Department of Physics, and has served UAF since 1989, when he was hired as an assistant professor in the Department of Geology & Geophysics and the Geophysical Institute. He was awarded tenure in 1994 and promoted to professor of geophysics at UAF in 2000. Layer served as department head/chair for the Department of Geology & Geophysics from 1995 to 2003, and then again in 2007. In 2007 he was appointed associate dean of CNSM and in 2009, interim dean.

Joan Braddock

  • 2003-2004 Interim Dean
  • 2004-2009 Dean

Joan Braddock was appointed as dean of the College of Natural Science & Mathematics in 2004. Previously Braddock had been serving as interim dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Mathematics, which separated into CNSM and the College of Engineering and Mines.

Braddock earned her PhD in oceanography from UAF in 1989. She joined the Institute of Arctic Biology as an assistant professor in 1990 and attained professor rank in 2003. She had sustained grant funding from state and federal agencies and over 40 peer-reviewed publications during her faculty career. She also served as major advisor for 15 graduate students.

After earning her Ph.D. Braddock was a research associate with the UAF Water Research Center. From 1990-1996 she became an assistant professor with the Institute of Arctic Biology and Department of Biology and Wildlife and adjunct assistant professor with the Water and Environmental Research Center. After receiving tenure in 1996 she was promoted to associate professor and was the department chair and graduate program coordinator for biology and wildlife from 1999-2001. Braddock then served as associate director of IAB from 2002-2003 before being named interim dean of CSEM in 2003.  Additionally Braddock served as director of the University of Alaska Press, and in 2014 as interim dean of fisheries and ocean science.

David Woodall

  • 1999-2003 Dean

David Woodall was a physicist, engineer and administrator with a PhD from Cornell University. He served as Dean from October 1999 through June 2003. Dr. Woodall was the dean of the college when it was known as the College of Science, Engineering and Mathematics. He was a visionary leader who founded the Engineering, Science, and Technology Experimental Station (ESTES) which continues to serve as the college’s grant and proposal office under the new name, CNSM Division of Research. Dr. Woodall also envisioned the Alaska Summer Research Academy (ASRA) as a bridge program for high school students, in preparation for STEM fields.

Dr. Woodall, passed away suddenly on September 3, 2012 of an apparent heart attack at the age of 67. At the time of his death he served as the president of Lake Washington Institute of Technology in Kirkland, Washington.

  • 1998-1999 Interim Dean

Dr. Edward C. Murphy served the University of Alaska Fairbanks with distinction in teaching, research and public service from 1977 to 2008, having been awarded emeritus status in 2008. He has conducted research that has led to improved understanding of a diverse range of Alaska animals and their ecologies, including seabirds, woodpeckers, passerines, harbor seals, Dall sheep and bowhead whales; and has authored or co-authored articles about his findings in more than fifty journals and reports.

Murphy earned his PhD from the University of Kansas in 1977.

Murphy has served in several leadership roles at the University, including multiple terms as Chair of the Department of Biology and Wildlife, acting dean of the Graduate School, and associate dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Mathematics Professor of Biology and Wildlife, Emeritus.

John Morack

  • 1993-1994 Interim Dean

John Morack served UAF from 1975-1999. He was a professor of physics, and received emeritus status in 1999. Among his accomplishments as interim dean, Morack worked to convince UAF to add network cabling to the Reichardt Building, then known as the Natural Science Facility. Computer networks were an emerging technology at the time, and the building plans lacked the wiring to accommodate them. Without his hard work, the Reichardt Building would have been unable to network computers until the “wireless age.”

Morack received a BS from Union College in 1961, and his PhD from Oregon State University in 1968.

Paul B. Reichardt

  • 1990-1991 Interim Dean
  • 1991-1993 Dean
  • 1994-1998 Dean

Paul Reichardt grew up in the St. Louis area. He graduated from Davidson College in 1965 and received his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry in 1969 from the University of Wisconsin. After two years of post-doctoral work at Yale University and one year as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at The Ohio State University, he joined the Chemistry faculty at UAF in 1972. In 1991 he became dean of the college which is now CNSM and then, from 1998 until his retirement in 2007, he served as UAF’s Provost.

As a faculty member, his teaching responsibilities focused on introductory and organic chemistry as well as supervision of graduate students. His research program in natural products and ecological chemistry was characterized by collaboration with many other scientists and resulted in over fifty scientific publications. As an administrator he was a participant in K-12 science education projects, represented UAF in The University of the Arctic, promoted the value of leadership training for academic administrators, and was a member of the commission that is responsible for accreditation of colleges and universities in the northwest United States.

A notable accomplishment was that he was instrumental in securing the funding for the Natural Sciences Facility which was the first new classroom building built on the UAF campus since 1971. The building opened in 1997 and in 2007 was it was renamed the Reichardt Building, in the former dean’s honor. Also in 2007, Reichardt was honored by the University of Alaska Foundation with the Edith R. Bullock Prize for excellence.

Kolf O. Jayaweera

  • 1985-1990 Dean

Kolf O. Jayaweera was the first Dean of the College of Natural Science, occupying that role from 1985-1990. He served UAF from 1970-1991. Jayaweera was instrumental in creating the structure that would sustain the college to the present time. Prior to this, the departments that now comprise the college were scattered throughout the campus. He was a professor of physics (emeritus as of 1992) who served previously as an associate professor of geophysics.

Jayaweera retired from Cal State Fullerton in 2005 after serving for 15 years as dean of the college, as well as a dual appointment in 1997 as acting dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

During his tenure as NSM dean, he encouraged faculty members to pursue funding for a comprehensive evaluation of teaching and learning in the college. The effort, known as the Undergraduate Reform Initiative, was funded by the National Science Foundation and led to curricular changes to improve the quality of the educational experience, including the development of new courses. Jayaweera is credited with initiating and implementing a variety of programs to bolster student success. He provided space and funding for the college’s Opportunity Center for Science and Mathematics Students, which led to the launch of the college’s Dimensions student research journal; its 14th edition was published this spring on CD.

Jayaweera earned his Ph.D. in physics at the University of London and B.S. in physics at the University of Ceylon. He went on to became a U.S. citizen and was selected by the National Academy of Sciences to serve as a U.S. delegate to the First Special Assembly of the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics in Melbourne in 1974.

His research activities included work in the areas of air pollution, cloud physics, atmospheric radiation and global climate changes.

Brina Kessel

  • 1962-1972 Dean

Brina Kessel joined the faculty of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) as an instructor in zoology in the summer of 1951. She advanced quickly to professorship, serving as head of the Department of Biological Sciences from 1957 through 1966 and as dean of the College of Biological Sciences and Renewable Resources from 1961 to 1972. For the University of Alaska Museum, she was curator of terrestrial vertebrates from 1972 to 1990 and curator of ornithology from 1990 until her retirement in 1997.

Kessel was graduated from Cornell University in 1947 with a Bachelor of Science degree. She then went to the University of Wisconsin to study with Aldo Leopold. Unfortunately, Leopold died fighting a fire on his property in 1948. She also learned that the university did not accept women into its doctoral program in wildlife management. She received a master's degree from Wisconsin in 1949 and returned to Cornell to resume her studies with Arthur Augustus Allen. Kessel collected some of the first recordings of bird vocalization at Cornell. With her dissertation on the European starling, she received her PhD in 1951.[1]

Brina Kessel conducted research on many aspects of Alaska's bird life over a span of more than 55 years. A particular interest was birds of the taiga and tundra. Her early research in the 1950s explored the lands of Naval Petroleum Reserve Number 4 on Alaska's North Slope; however, in those days the Department of Defense did not permit women to conduct fieldwork on the property. Thus, Tom Cade and George Schaller worked in the field, while Kessel wrote up results as principal investigator. A few years later, Kessel worked in the Brooks Range with Margaret Murie and her husband Olaus Murie. Kessel worked in the field for many years studying the avifauna of the Seward Peninsula.[1]

Kessel's research culminated in publications that include Birds of the Seward Peninsula, Alaska (1989) and Habitat Characteristics of Some Passerine Birds in Western North American Taiga (1998).[1]

Kessel brought her scientific expertise to several projects in the realm of Alaskan economic development. In the early 1980s, she performed fieldwork in the upper valley of the Susitna River in anticipation of a hydroelectric dam project.[2]

Brina Kessel was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1960. In 1973, she became one of the first women to be named a fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU); she served the AOU as president from 1992 to 1994.[2] The AOU, now the American Ornithological Society, established the Brina C. Kessel Award to recognize an outstanding recent article published in The Auk: Ornithological Advances.[11] Kessel was elected to fellowship in the Arctic Institute of North America in 1978.[12] From the University of Alaska, she received its President's Distinguished Service Award in 1981.[2]

Brina Kessel, through her estate, made a large gift to the University of Alaska to fund the Birds of Alaska project and to establish the Kessel Ornithology Endowment Fund.[10]The Brina Kessel Medal for Excellence in Science is granted annually to an undergraduate student at UAF.[2][10] Kessel Pond at Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks was named in her honor.[2]