Washington University in St. Louis - Klein named vice provost and associate dean for graduate education

July 20, 2017

Robyn S. Klein, MD, PhD, a physician-scientist recognized internationally for her work on the brain’s immune system, has been named vice provost and associate dean for graduate education for the Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences (DBBS) at Washington University in St. Louis. She will begin her new post Jan. 1.

“The Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences is an integral part of the university’s collaborative research and education enterprise,” said Provost Holden Thorp. “We are exceptionally fortunate to have such an accomplished scientist and leader as Robyn Klein to step into the role of vice provost and associate dean. Under her direction, the division will undoubtedly further its success in bringing together faculty and graduate students across disciplines to seek solutions to today’s most critical challenges in biomedical research. I look forward to working with her in her new role.”

Klein succeeds John H. Russell, PhD, who is retiring but will retain an appointment in developmental biology. He plans to focus on revitalizing the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.

As associate dean, Klein will set the direction of graduate education at DBBS, which comprises 12 programs, includes more than 650 graduate students in the sciences, and spans the Medical and Danforth campuses. It is the largest PhD program at the university, and it includes 150 MD/PhD students in the Medical Scientist Training Program, the largest such program in the country. Klein intends to build on the division’s strength in training young scientists, and to prepare students for scientific careers that are interdisciplinary and extend beyond academic domains. She will hold the title of vice provost because DBBS spans multiple schools.

“We have a fantastic graduate program, and our faculty provide first-rate scientific training,” said Klein, a professor of medicine, of neuroscience, and of pathology and immunology. “But these days, only about a quarter of graduate students in science go on to careers in academia. We have to provide the best training and experience for our graduate students so they will be prepared for top positions, whether they go into academia, industry, science policy, scientific publishing or any other field.”

Klein also plans to promote diversity among students and faculty, something she believes will enhance the quality of education and research at the university, and she plans to explore ways to increase recruitment of students from underrepresented minority groups.

“There are a lot of excellent underrepresented minority students who do not necessarily consider our program when they are looking at graduate training,” Klein said. “I am looking for ways to identify such students and encourage them to come to St. Louis.”

Klein, who joined the faculty in 2003, is the founding director of the university’s Center for Neuroimmunology and Neuroinfectious Diseases. Much of her work has focused on how the barrier between the brain and the rest of the body changes when the brain is infected or inflamed and, more recently, on how infections alter cognitive function. Her past studies have shed light on why women are much more likely than men to develop multiple sclerosis, and how viral infections such as West Nile and Zika damage the brain.

Klein is an elected member of the International Advisory Board of the International Society of Neuroimmunology and a recipient of the Dana Foundation Award for Neuroimmunology. She is a founding member of the International Society for Neurovirology and a member of the American College of Physicians, the American Society for Microbiology, the American Society for Immunology and the International Society for Neuroimmunology.

She is also president of the Academic Women’s Network at the School of Medicine. In that role, she promotes career development and mentorship for women in science and medicine.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology at Barnard College in 1985, Klein earned a master’s degree in neuroscience in 1990 and a doctorate in neuroscience and a medical degree in 1993 from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, followed by a fellowship in infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a fellowship in immunology at Harvard Medical School.