A Message from the Dean

David WardlawPhoto courtesy Paul Mayne of Western News

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Faculty of Science at The University of Western Ontario. Western Science consists of eight core Departments: Applied Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Mathematics, Physics & Astronomy and Statistical & Actuarial Sciences. We are also cross-affiliated with the Basic Medical Sciences departments. The members of Western Science include 4327 undergraduate & 466 graduate students, 81 post-doctoral fellows & research associates, 124 administrative & technical staff, 85 full-time research staff, 204 full-time & 51 part-time faculty, and 31,904 alumni. Western Science is renowned for comprehensive undergraduate education and an intensive research agenda.
Our Faculty continues to attract increasing numbers of very highly qualified undergraduate students. In 1999, we had about 22,000 undergraduate course registrants in Western Science and about half of our students entered with an average of 83% or higher. In September 2005, there were over 25,500 undergraduate course registrants and our minimum entering average was 80%. This first-year class contained 1304 students. What pleased us was the exceptional quality of this class. Our first-year students have an average entering grade of 87.3%, placing Science at Western top among large universities in Ontario.

Why are students choosing Western Science? One reason is our innovative undergraduate programs. Another is the teaching excellence of our professors, who continue to receive numerous local, provincial and national teaching awards. Likewise, we are proud of our many graduate students and staff who play an essential role in preparing and teaching undergraduate laboratories and tutorials. Western Science also helps its students to develop skills beyond those taught in the classrooms and laboratories. Examples include the Undergraduate Student-Industry Internship Program, and the recently launched Science Student Career Development initiative. The Science External Advisory Council, with membership from the private sector, government and the community, also places a strong emphasis on ensuring that Western Science students are well prepared for successful careers. The opportunity to join a motivated and highly qualified student population remains one of Western Science's greatest attractions. A university education is as much about the quality of the interaction with one's peers as it is about what occurs in classrooms and laboratories. The continuing dynamism of our Science Student Council epitomizes the energy and capability of our students.

Research is another essential component of Western Science's success. Our Academic Plan explains how Science's research has been organized about five themes: Materials & Biomaterials, Computational Sciences, Functional Genomics & Evolution, Environmental Science & Ecology, and Planets & Stars. Our goal is to create and sustain the critical mix and mass of people needed for our research activities to be competitive internationally. More than 95% of our faculty members hold peer-reviewed research grants, for a total of more than 600 grants. External funding has grown dramatically, from expenditures of about $11 M in 1998 to $23 M in 2005. The average research expenditures per full-time faculty member increased from approximately $70,000 to $130,000 per year during this time. In addition to the purchase of new research equipment and materials, these grants are an essential source of support for Science's growing cadre of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, research associates and other research staff.

The future? We are committed to maintaining high standards for our students, to ensuring that our students have easy access to a wide array of career opportunities, to hiring the best faculty and staff members, and to modernizing Science's facilities - witness construction of the Biotron, the thorough refitting of the Biological & Geological Building, the plans afoot for the Physics & Astronomy Building renovations and the addition of the Materials Sciences Building. We must also engage the entire academy in capitalizing upon public policy initiatives directed at a redoubling of efforts in graduate education, internationalization and technology transfer. Graduate education, in particular, continues to be a high priority as reflected in the escalating number of full-time graduate students over the past few years. In 2002, there were 368 graduate students in Western Science; by 2005 the number had grown to 460. We must persevere in ensuring that we attract the very best graduate students to Science. We must ensure that their academic experience is superb and that their stipends are competitive. We also must adapt our present educational approaches to provide not only the depth but also the breadth of knowledge needed by today's graduate students.

In all of this, scholarship and learning remain our fundamental goals. Ensuring their pursuit in all parts of the Faculty of Science remains our principal task. We must continually assess the quality of our scholarship, and make the choices required to enhance where enhancement is earned, to improve where improvement is needed, and to change where change is required. Human energy, capability and commitment are the most important factors in making the Faculty of Science strong. Science's vision is enabled only when faculty, staff and students share a common purpose, understand and respect each other's roles, and are collectively savvy about the larger context within which each and every one of us exists.

Dr. David M. Wardlaw
Friday July 14th 2006