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Optical Sciences chooses dean

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Thomas L. Koch, director of the Center for Optical Technologies at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., has been chosen to serve as the second dean of the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences, formerly the Optical Sciences Center. He will replace founding dean James C. Wyant, who has served 13 years as both director and dean. (James C. Wyant pictured)

For the first time in its history, the UA College of Optical Sciences is undergoing a change in leadership.

Thomas Koch, director of the Center for Optical Technologies at Lehigh University, will replace James Wyant as dean of the College of Optical Sciences on Jan. 1. Wyant is stepping down to return to teaching or enter industry work, he said.

The College of Optical Sciences, formerly the Optical Sciences Center, is one of the largest in the country and accounted for 20 percent of the university’s invention disclosures in 2010, according to a report from the Arizona Board of Regents. Wyant has served as the dean of the College of Optical Sciences since its inception in 2005.

The college grew under his leadership, gaining a new building, securing more funding and adding to its faculty.

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Wyant announced he would step down in April 2010. He knew Koch and thought of him as a possible replacement.

“I really pushed him hard to apply,” Wyant said. “I thought he was the perfect person for the job.”

Koch said the college’s research and ties with different industries attracted him to the UA. He wants to continue his leadership in the same spirit, he said.

“I think it’d be a little crazy to start offering changes before I learn about the people and the environment,” Koch said. “I think it’s easier to say the things we need to continue.”

The college is larger than the center Koch currently directs and has about three times as many faculty, he said.

“I think it’s an opportunity for me to expand and learn,” Koch said. “The talent collection is very exciting.”

Koch plans on focusing on education, research and the connection with different industries. The three intertwine because teachers must be current in the industry for the benefit of students, he said.

“How do you know what type of things and opportunities and tools students need?” Koch asked.

Wyant said he would like to see more collaboration with other departments under Koch’s leadership. He said he advises him to continue incorporating a variety of subjects into the optical sciences education.

“Continue to keep a very broad program here,” Wyant said. “It’s important to keep a broad base and look for areas of growth.”

Koch plans on learning from Wyant as he assumes his role as the new dean.

“I think the temptation to avoid is to think you need to make a bold statement right away,” Koch said. “You need to listen and learn for quite a while.”


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