She won’t officially start until January, but Deirdre Meldrum is already getting set up in her new Arizona digs as she prepares for her post as dean of the engineering school at Arizona State University.
Meldrum says she “wasn’t looking for a position” when the ASU possibility arose, and in fact “I just kept ignoring the opportunity,” she adds. But after looking into it more thoroughly, she finally accepted the offer. “I really liked the energy and the leadership and the opportunities that ASU was offering,” says Meldrum, who in addition to being dean of engineering will also direct a center at the university’s Biodesign Institute, headed up by George Poste. From Arizona State’s perspective, Meldrum will set an example for getting engineers to think more broadly and train in other areas, such as biology, to enable them to work at the boundaries of different disciplines.
Currently an electrical engineering professor at the University of Washington, where she’s been since 1992, Meldrum is perhaps best known to the genomics community as the co-director of the Microscale Life Sciences Center, one of NHGRI’s Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science. That program focuses on developing miniaturized, automated systems for the detection and analysis of individual cells. The center, which collaborates with Brandeis University and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, was recently awarded a continuation grant of $18 million for the next five years.
While the CEGS will officially follow her to Arizona in January, “I’ll be issuing a big subcontract back to the University of Washington,” Meldrum says. A few scientists will be making the move with her, while several of her staff will stay behind to help provide a link between Arizona and the original CEGS home.
Recently, Meldrum and her team have put some of the technology developed at the UW CEGS to use in the field of ecogenomics, where the microscale devices can help monitor oceanic microbial communities.
For the time being, Meldrum’s appointment in Arizona means she’ll be racking up frequent flier miles as she splits her time between the two universities. That will taper off over time, she says, but her involvement with the UW team won’t. “We’re setting up extensive video conferencing,” she says.
— Meredith Salisbury