December 21, 2006

Tyrrell named interim College of Science dean

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A researcher and administrator with almost 40 years of experience at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will lead the College of Science while the University searches for a permanent dean.

James Tyrrell, a chemist who also has served in a variety of administrative positions during the last four decades, this week was appointed interim dean of the college. Pending SIU Board of Trustees' approval, he will step in for Jack Parker, who recently retired from the University.

A native of Scotland, Tyrrell arrived at SIUC in 1967 as an assistant professor and became a full professor of chemistry and biochemistry in 1980. He served at various times as assistant chairman, acting chairman and chairman of the chemistry and biochemistry department. He has served as associate dean for budget and personnel in the College of Science since 2002.

During the 1990's, Tyrrell spearheaded the creation of the University's Center for Environmental Health and Safety, which coordinates and oversees the safe handling and disposal of hazardous materials used in various research on campus and ensures worker and researcher safety. Under his direction, the effort garnered state funding to build a facility for the center, which Tyrrell helped design.

Interim Provost Don S. Rice said Tyrrell's long record of service to the University is a great advantage.

"I'm very pleased he's agreed to serve in this position. He has provided long-term service and leadership to the University and you can always count on him to give an informed opinion," Rice said. "What most everyone will tell you about him is he is a very conscientious and productive colleague. He has a long history with the College of Science. He knows it well."

Rice said the search for a permanent dean is continuing, with four potential finalists identified. Plans call for the candidates to visit campus during spring semester.

Tyrrell said he will not be a candidate for the permanent dean's position but will serve as interim until the University finds and hires suitable candidate, hopefully by fall 2007.

"What first appealed to me about SIUC was the sense that this was a university that was trying to move forward. It had goals and wanted to be a big player," Tyrrell said. "I think that's still the situation. I've been very comfortable as a teacher, researcher and administrator. The University has given me a lot and when you've been here as long as I, you have a commitment to it."

As a researcher, Tyrrell focused on computational chemistry, which deals with modeling chemical systems using mathematics and computers. As interim dean, he will continue teaching an introductory chemistry course, he said.

Tyrrell said his first priority is naming an interim associate dean from within the college. That person will focus on improving the undergraduate experience and retention by providing more academic support throughout the college.

"When we find incoming undergraduates lacking in content we can help them by offering some additional support and teaching them to learn how to learn and manage their time," Tyrrell said.

He also wants to continue emphasizing research, which he said has greatly improved in both quantity and quality during the last few years, while balancing it with teaching and community service. He also wants to improve collaboration among the various departments in the college.

Tyrrell has three children: son Dalton, 40, of Wichita, Kan.; daughter An, 21, a senior at Washington University in St. Louis; and daughter Mayna, 11, a sixth-grader. He is married to Jie Zhang Tyrrell, who works in Records & Registration at SIUC.