Professor Alison Butler, a 15-year veteran of UCSB’s chemistry and biochemistry departments, was recently appointed as the first associate dean of the bioengineering program.

Butler’s appointment is aimed toward building up the bioengineering program and encouraging growth in the expanding field. Butler, a biochemistry professor, said she has already begun working toward these goals.

“What we’ve done already is put together a high-profile bioengineering seminar here for Winter and Spring Quarter,” Butler said. “The reason we want to do this is to bring outstanding bioengineering faculty from around the country to UCSB, so we can hear about other views on research development in bioengineering, and also so we can show other leaders in the field what we have and what is exciting at UCSB.”

College of Engineering Dean Matt Tirrell said the program hopes to build a wide range of strengths in fields such as biochemical engineering, biomedical engineering, bioinfomatics and biomaterials.

“We are interested in establishing a broad campus initiative in the interface amongst the physical, biological sciences and engineering. So, it’s really very broad, not only is it biochemical engineering, it’s a lot of other things,” he said. “Basically, what we are trying to do is build up this area, and it requires considerable effort.”

Tirrell and Martin Moskovits, dean of mathematical, life and physical sciences, said a committee selected Butler based on her experience and cross-disciplinary research. Butler works on bioinorganic chemistry of the marine environment, studying how marine bacteria acquire iron, without which they cannot grow. She also researches a marine enzyme called vanadium bromoperoxidase and its functional mimics, which catalyze reactions between halides – ionized halogens – and hydrogen peroxide.

“[Butler] had a unique collection of attributes and skills that reflected the goal of this program to straddle the sciences, the mechanical sciences and the biological sciences,” Moskovits said. “Although there are a number of other individuals at UCSB who are in that area as well, her research interests and her combination of energy and vision made her of particular interest.”

Butler’s awards include an American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Research Award, the UCSB Harold Plous Memorial Teacher/Scholar Award and an Alfred Sloan Foundation Fellowship. Butler was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute for Technology before she came to UCSB in 1986.