Northeastern appoints Hazel Sive as dean of the College of Science

Portrait of Hazel Sive
Hazel Sive, a professor of biology at MIT and a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, will begin as dean of the College of Science in June, 2020. Photo by Gretchen Ertl

Northeastern University has appointed Hazel Sive as the new dean of the College of Science. An accomplished leader in the scientific community, Sive is also a passionate innovator in higher education. She comes to Northeastern from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she has held leadership roles within the institute’s research enterprise. 

“Northeastern has the spirit and the record of being a place that is actively thinking about the future of higher education,” said Sive, who has been a professor of biology at MIT, “and doing it in a truly innovative way that allows the readout of lots of interesting and productive ideas, and I’m really excited to become part of that whole landscape.” 

Sive said she was drawn Northeastern’s innovative, no-boundaries approach to higher education, laid out in Northeastern 2025, the university’s strategic plan, which creates a globally networked ecosystem for learning, research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. It is a concept of lifelong and experiential learning that will liberate students from outdated career models and give them the opportunity to prosper over the course of their lives. 

“Hazel Sive’s work and career exemplify the Northeastern approach,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern. She is truly a scientist engaged with the world. Her experience as a scientist and her record of leadership make her the ideal person to lead the College of Science.” 

Sive, who is also a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and an associate member of the Broad Institute, has spent her career pushing for innovative approaches in higher education. In her 28 years at MIT, she developed a training program to help new faculty improve their teaching skills, founded and directed an initiative that facilitates research and collaboration with countries in Africa, and worked to increase opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities in science.  

Sive also served as the chair of the biology department undergraduate program at MIT for three years and the associate dean of science for seven, and she was named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow for her skill and innovation as a teacher and mentor to undergraduates. 

“Dr. Sive brings a commitment to research excellence, a commitment to teaching excellence, and innovation to our community,” said James C. Bean, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Sive has established herself as a leading researcher in the field of vertebrate development. While researching how the brain forms its characteristic shape and the production and movement of cerebrospinal fluid, Sive uncovered several fundamental processes, including a previously undescribed way that cells change shape. 

She also identified a region of a developing embryo, which she named the extreme anterior domain, that is responsible for proper formation of the face and mouth. And her research group has been using zebrafish as a tool to understand human mental health disorders and neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as investigating the relationship between metabolism and mental health.

“Research is always a moving target,” Sive said. “Outstanding research is always aspirational. You are never there—you’re always trying to make it even more rigorous, even more groundbreaking. That is a framework in which I look forward to working with colleagues in the college.” 

She will be succeeding Michael Pollastri, professor of chemistry and chemical biology, who has been serving as the interim dean since February, when Ken Henderson, the previous dean, took on a new role as chancellor and senior vice president for learning at the university.

“We look forward to building on the substantial progress made in the College of Science under Dean Henderson and interim Dean Pollastri,” Bean said.

Sive will start at Northeastern on June 1, 2020.

“The college is in a very strong position,” Sive said. “It’s a wonderful start for me to be able to work with a college that is in such a healthy state, with a terrific strategic plan and outstanding faculty and students, and then to build on that to even greater excellence.” 

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