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College of Life Sciences Appoints Three Chairs

BYU College of Life Sciences Dean James P. Porter announces three department chair appointments. Josh West is named chair of the Department of Public Health, filling the role held by Carl Hansen for the past six years. Two chairs are reappointed, including Michael Stark as chair of the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology and Neil Hansen as chair of the Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences. All appointments are effective July 1, 2021.

Josh West

Department of Public Health

West earned his master’s degree in public health from San Diego State University and his PhD in public health from the University of California, San Diego. He has worked at BYU since 2008. His current research focuses on undernutrition in developing settings and the use of technology to promote behavior change. West says it has been an exciting year for public health, sparking conversations about COVID-19 and chronic diseases that would not have otherwise occurred.

West hopes to contribute to the upward trajectory of the Department of Public Health in his new position as department chair. “I’m very hopeful that I can have a small hand in helping my colleagues continue to reach their professional aspirations on campus,” he says. “I want to help my colleagues reach their professional goals and establish new ones.”

Department of Cell Biology and Physiology

Michael Stark

Stark earned his undergraduate degree in zoology at BYU and his master’s degree in biology at Idaho State University. He earned his PhD at the University of California, Irvine, and was a research scholar at the University of Utah for three years before coming to BYU in 2001. His research focuses on nervous system development, including neural tube defects like spina bifida.

While serving as chair of the Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology, Stark worked alongside faculty members in a rebranding process. The department is now the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology (CELL).

“I still teach classes and I still run a research lab,” Stark says. “I love interacting with the students and giving them a chance to build their academic resumes.”

Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences

Neil Hansen

Hansen earned his bachelor’s degree in agronomy and his master’s degree in soil science from BYU. His PhD from the University of Minnesota is also in soil science. Currently, Hansen researches water conservation in agricultural ecosystems. He works on a team of students and faculty and with international collaborators to utilize technology in the irrigation of crops like wheat, alfalfa, and potato. Hansen appreciates the Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences’ (PWS) support in reappointing him as chair.

“PWS is a very interdisciplinary department,” Hansen says. “I hope that students in any of our academic programs can grow from both the specialization they choose but also see the world from the academically diverse perspectives that exist in PWS.”