Smithsonian names Pell Under Secretary for Science

August 13, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- Eva J. Pell, Penn State's senior vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School, has been named the next Under Secretary for Science for the Smithsonian Institution.

Pell, who has worked at Penn State for 36 years, will take on the new role in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 4, 2010.

"This is a unique opportunity for me to be a part of a historic institution that is far more complex than the general public might know from its iconic museums, zoo and other facilities located in Washington," Pell said. "The Smithsonian employs more than a thousand researchers working at centers in New York, Boston, Virginia, Panama and elsewhere around the world.

"I once imagined my life at Penn State would be on the faculty working with undergraduate and graduate students in plant pathology and plant physiology in Buckhout Laboratory," Pell said.

Unexpected opportunities changed the direction of her career.

"Overseeing research and the Graduate School at Penn State for the past decade has been enormously satisfying and not something I imagined giving up any time soon. However, working for a venerable institution like the Smithsonian — founded six years before Penn State — overseeing research that will have a great impact on human knowledge is a move I could not resist."

"I know there are few opportunities that could interest Eva in leaving her important work here at Penn State, but the Smithsonian position is one that provides her new challenges and an ability to have an even broader impact on research and science education," said Penn State President Graham Spanier. "We'll miss her leadership, her enthusiasm and loyalty for Penn State and her keen insight.

"Her hard work has taken a great national research university and given it a boost," Spanier said. "Through her leadership we are in a strong position to remain a key center of research for the 21st century."

Research at Penn State nearly doubled since Pell took over the research office. In 1999, when she became vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School, the University's research expenditures were $393 million. When the expenditures for the 2008-2009 academic year are reported, they are expected to exceed $750 million.

Pell also continued to emphasize the institution's commitment to technology transfer. Industrially sponsored research expenditures in 2008 exceeded $100 million, ranking Penn State third among the nation's universities conducting research sponsored by companies.

She worked closely with the State Department of Community and Economic Development at Penn State to ensure that the work of the faculty was accessible to the citizenry of Pennsylvania to assist existing companies and start-up companies, and to support workforce development.

"Through administrative changes and collaboration with the academic deans, Dr. Pell encouraged a climate for interdisciplinary research in significant and positive ways," said Rod Erickson, executive vice president and provost at Penn State. "The institutes that exist today in Materials, Energy and the Environment, Social Sciences and Life Sciences, as well as Arts and the Humanities and CyberScience, form a central core of research activity at Penn State that supports and stimulates the free exchange of ideas and collaborations among faculty from throughout the University.

"She promoted the professional development of graduate students at Penn State through workshops that support students aspiring for careers in higher education and those with interests outside the professoriate," Erickson said. "She also has developed a significant outreach program to reconnect graduate school alums with their alma mater."

During the past decade Pell shifted the institution from a philosophy of research compliance to one of research protection. She instituted a policy that requires all graduate students, regardless of funding source, to receive responsible conduct of research/scholarship training. She oversaw Penn State accreditation by the Association of Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) and the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Program (AAHRPP).

Starting in January, Pell's new office will be located along the National Mall, between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, in the Smithsonian Castle.

For more information about the Smithsonian Institution, visit online. For additional information about Pell being named as Under Secretary, visit online.


Eva J. Pell, John and Nancy Steimer professor of agricultural sciences, was appointed vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School at Penn State during the Board of Trustees meeting in January 2000. She had served in this position on an interim basis from July 1, 1999, until that time.

On May 12, 2006, the board approved the recommendation for her title to change to senior vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School.

Pell earned a bachelor of science degree in biology from City College of the City University of New York in 1968, and a doctorate in plant biology from Rutgers University in 1972. She was appointed assistant professor of plant pathology at Penn State in 1973. She was promoted to associate professor in 1978 and professor of plant pathology in 1983. In 1991 she was named distinguished professor of plant pathology, and in 1995 was named the Steimer professor of agricultural sciences.

Pell's research focused on the impact of air pollutants on vegetation and her research spanned from the molecular to the ecophysiological. She was the recipient of grants totaling more than $7 million. She is the author or co-author of more than 100 publications and more than 65 abstracts. In 2003, she was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Pell serves on numerous national committees and organizations, and was the 2003-2004 president of the Association of American Universities' (AAU) Association of Graduate Schools. She also was chair of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges' (NASULGC) Council of Research Policy and Graduate Education from 2004-2005.

Pell currently serves on the board of the Council of Graduate Schools. She is active in economic development and serves on a number of state boards including the Ben Franklin Center of Central and Northern Pennsylvania, the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, the Technology Collaborative and the Life Science Greenhouse for Central Pennsylvania. She is the president of the Penn State Research Foundation and the Research Park Management Corp.

  • Eva J. Pell

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated April 21, 2017