Kevin Pitts, chief research officer at Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory and a professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been named the next dean of the Virginia Tech College of Science.

Pitts will officially step into his new role June 13, taking over from Ron Fricker, who has served as interim dean since January 2021. Pitts will also be a professor in the College of Science Department of Physics.

“Kevin’s recent experience as chief research officer at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and his leadership of undergraduate instruction at the departmental, college and university levels position him exceptionally well to lead the College of Science to even greater accomplishments in its research and educational missions,” said Cyril Clarke, executive vice president and provost.

“The college plays a very important role in further advancing Virginia Tech’s national reputational excellence,” Clarke added, “and we are fortunate to have someone of Kevin’s caliber to support college faculty, staff and students in achieving this goal.”

In 2021, Pitts became chief research officer at Fermilab, a U.S. Department of Energy facility, where he is charged with oversight of the laboratory’s science program, including the multi-billion-dollar international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. Even before his appointment last year, Pitts worked extensively on experiments at Fermilab, including the 1995 discovery of the “top quark,” a central finding in particle physics.

Before joining Fermilab as chief research officer, Pitts was vice provost for Undergraduate Education at University of Illinois, where his responsibilities included undergraduate admissions, financial aid, student success, and online education. Prior to that, he was associate dean for undergraduate programs in the university’s College of Engineering.

Pitts was named dean of the College of Science at Virginia Tech following a national search.

“Kevin possesses a wealth of leadership experience, he is a genuine advocate for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and he has the strategic mindset to advance education and research. Equally impressive to us as a search committee, however, is the alignment of his personal mission of service with our Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) motto,” said Lee Learman, dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and head of the search committee. “That told us that Kevin is the right person for Virginia Tech and the right leader for the College of Science.”

Pitts received a bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics from Anderson University in Indiana, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Oregon. His career achievements and honors are significant, including: a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a fellow of the American Physical Society, U.S. Department of Energy Outstanding Junior Investigator, and a recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award.

Parallel to his research, Pitts’ teaching and administrative work is notable for the connections he established with undergraduate and graduate students. He was among University of Illinois teachers listed as “outstanding” by students for 12 consecutive years, and he received the University of Illinois Engineering Council Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Advisor multiple times.

He led the university’s NSF-funded Redshirt Consortium, a program aimed at improving the ability of academically talented students who are PELL eligible, Underrepresented Minority, or women to enroll and graduate in STEM fields. He also served in the national chair-line of the American Physics Society’s Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics.

“I am honored to join the College of Science at Virginia Tech, a college with a track record of transforming lives through education and groundbreaking research,” said Pitts. “I look forward to working with students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders to promote a diverse, vibrant community and continue our upward trajectory.”

Fricker, who has served the college as interim Dean during the search, will now transition into a new role, vice provost for faculty affairs, a position to which he was named in December.

“I’d like to thank Ron Fricker for serving as interim dean of the college during this important leadership transition,” Clarke said. “His service has been exemplary, and I look forward to working with him as he takes on his new role.”

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