Dean Kathryn E. Uhrich, a distinguished polymer chemist, began her tenure as dean of CNAS on January 1, 2016. Previously, she served from 2009 through 2013 as Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers. Serving more than 300 faculty in six departments, she developed programs to increase research and teaching collaborations between departments and colleges in the university. Working with the department chairs, she led the modification of the university’s promotion process to recognize contributions of academic leadership. Under her leadership, support for research funding and assistance with applications for extramural funding increased along with university investments in new approaches to teaching science.
Both as dean and leading member of the Rutgers faculty, Uhrich worked with the university leadership and state legislators to initiate the construction and design of a new chemistry/science building to expand both the research and teaching capacity of the faculty. Previously, as graduate program director in the chemistry and chemical biology department, Uhrich worked to diversify the graduate program to include more women and people of color. Working with alumni, she raised funding to create new fellowships to support graduate students.
Uhrich’s research links chemistry with the life sciences and engineering disciplines to create new materials and design new devices in which polymers can be used to increase health and extend life. Widely recognized as a leading innovator in polymer research, Uhrich’s research focuses on designing bioactive, biodegradable polymers for use in drug delivery, food safety and personal care. She has been issued more than 70 U.S. and international patents, and her work has spawned several start-up companies, including Polymerix Corporation, which created biodegradable delivery systems for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and coatings for surgical implants.
Uhrich has authored more than 140 peer-reviewed papers. She has also collaborated extensively with colleagues in this country and overseas, and worked in close partnership with companies such as Chanel, DuPont, Exxon Mobil, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck.
Uhrich earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Cornell University, and her B.S. in chemistry, with honors, from the University of North Dakota. In her work at Rutgers, she championed of enhanced STEM education for women and people of color. As dean, Uhrich worked with departments and the University to ensure inclusive practices for faculty – from faculty hiring, to faculty promotion and recognition. As a board member of the Rutgers’ Office for the Promotion of Women, Science, Engineering and Mathematics, Uhrich worked to foster supportive environments for students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds. As a researcher, Uhrich’s interest in mentoring the next generation of scientists is reflected by the composition and size of her research team: she’s supervised 60 Ph.D. students from four departments and more than 80 undergraduate students.
Uhrich’s professional experience includes stints as a visiting professor at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the University of New South Wales, Australia. Her research lab has hosted dozens of visiting scientists from across the globe including Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Netherlands, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Scotland, and Turkey. Through various roles, Uhrich champions institutional support for international research at Rutgers. She was a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and also worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories and at Eastman Kodak.
In addition to her status as a fellow of the American Chemical Society, she is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Bioactive and Compatible Polymers and a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. She was also named a Fellow of the AAS in 2021.