Kevin Pitts, the future dean of the Virginia Tech College of Science, is the chief research officer at Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory and a professor of physics at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
Pitts will take over as temporary dean on June 13, succeeding Ron Fricker, who has been in the position since January 2021. Pitts will also be a professor in the Department of Physics at the College of Science.
Kevin’s recent experience as chief research officer at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, as well as his leadership of undergraduate instruction at the departmental, college, and university levels, positions him exceptionally well to lead the College of Science to even greater accomplishments in its research and educational missions, according to Cyril Clarke, executive vice president and provost.
“We are lucky to have someone of Kevin’s level to help college teachers, staff, and students in reaching this objective,” Clarke noted.
Pitts was appointed chief research officer of Fermilab, a US Department of Energy facility, in 2021, and is responsible for the laboratory’s scientific program, which includes the multibillion-dollar worldwide Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. Pitts worked substantially on research at Fermilab before his appointment last year, including the 1995 discovery of the “top quark,” a key result in particle physics.
Pitts was vice provost for Undergraduate Education at the University of Illinois, where he was responsible for undergraduate admissions, financial aid, student success, and online education. Before joining Fermilab as chief research officer, he was vice provost for Undergraduate Education at the University of Illinois, where he was responsible for undergraduate admissions, financial aid, student success, and online education. He was formerly the university’s associate dean for undergraduate programs in the College of Engineering.
Following a nationwide search, Pitts was chosen dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Science.
“Kevin has extensive leadership experience, is a true champion for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and has the strategic thinking required to enhance education and research.” The convergence of his personal purpose of service with our Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) slogan is equally striking to us as a search committee,” said Lee Learman, dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and chair of the search committee. “We knew Kevin was the appropriate person for Virginia Tech and the right head for the College of Science based on it.”
Pitts earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from Anderson University in Indiana, as well as master’s and doctoral degrees in physics and mathematics from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an American Physical Society fellow, a U.S. Department of Energy Outstanding Junior Investigator, and a National Science Foundation CAREER grant winner.
Pitts’ teaching and administrative work, in addition to his research, is renowned for the relationships he built with undergraduate and graduate students. For the last 12 years, students at the University of Illinois have rated him as “excellent,” and he has earned the University of Illinois Engineering Council Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Advisor many times.
He was the director of the university’s NSF-funded Redshirt Consortium, which intended to improve the enrollment and graduation rates of academically brilliant students who were PELL eligible, underrepresented minorities, or women in STEM disciplines. He also chaired the American Physics Society’s Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics on a national level.
“I am pleased to join Virginia Tech’s Institution of Science, a college that has a history of impacting lives through education and pioneering research,” Pitts said. “I am excited to collaborate with students, professors, staff, and other stakeholders to foster a diverse, dynamic community and maintain our upward trajectory.”
Fricker, who has served as interim Dean throughout the search, will now move into a new post as vice provost for faculty affairs, which he was nominated to in December.
“During this critical leadership transition, I’d want to express my gratitude to Ron Fricker for acting as interim dean of the college,” Clarke stated. “His service has been outstanding, and I am looking forward to working with him in his new position.”
PHOTO CREDIT: FERMILAB