UC Berkeley News


Beth Burnside, campus's research chief, to step down

| 21 August 2008

Beth Burnside

Beth Burnside, whose portfolio as Berkeley’s vice chancellor for research includes dozens of research units, six museums, and seven field stations, has announced her retirement effective at the end of October 2008. A former dean of biological sciences, Burnside was named to the top research post by then-Chancellor Robert Berdahl in January 2001.

In a statement to the campus community, current Chancellor Robert Birgeneau hailed Burnside’s “great energy and creativity” in revamping and streamlining Berkeley’s research-and-compliance infrastructure, writing that “her leadership in providing the campus with ‘state-of-the-art’ research administrative support has been integral to the outstanding success of Berkeley’s research enterprise.”

A cell biologist whose research has focused on mechanisms of movement in light-sensitive photoreceptors of the retina, the native Texan earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in zoology and developmental biology at the University of Texas at Austin. She joined the Berkeley faculty in 1977, going on to oversee a mass-ive restructuring of the biological-sciences division in Letters and Science as dean from 1983 to 1990.

Her term as vice chancellor has brought similar changes to the campus’s overall research enterprise, including a comprehensive restructuring of its patent and licensing operations into what is now the Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Research Alliances, or IPIRA. It was Burnside who, in September 2004, signed a historic agreement with the government of Samoa to share royalties from a promising anti-AIDS drug derived from a gene found in the bark of the South Pacific nation’s mamala tree.

More recently, Burnside played a pivotal role in persuading oil giant BP to make Berkeley a partner in the $500 million Energy Biosciences Institute. “Her skillful and determined leadership” in winning that contract, said Birgeneau, “has been a crowning achievement for Berkeley as it pursues global leadership in research for clean, sustainable, and affordable alternative energy.”

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