The Marine Sciences Research Center located on Stony Brook’s Southampton campus is a state-of-the-art facility that the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences offers to undergraduate and graduate students. Paul B. Shepson was announced as the new dean of SoMAS on Friday, Feb. 23. MELISSA AZOFEIFA/THE STATESMAN

World-renowned climate scientist, Paul B. Shepson, was announced as the new dean of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) on Feb. 23. His tenure will begin on July 2, 2018.

“I am very excited about working with SoMAS faculty, staff, and students to help Stony Brook lead the pursuits of paths to a better future for New Yorkers, for Americans, and for the planet,” Shepson stated via email.

Shepson’s appointment has been received positively by faculty at SoMAS. He will be replacing interim dean Larry Swanson. 

“We are thrilled that he’s coming,” Professor of Atmospheric Science and Chemistry Daniel Knopf said. “I’m very confident that he will understand our needs.”

Shepson currently works at Purdue University as the Jonathan Amy Distinguished Professor of analytical and atmospheric chemistry. He is also the director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center and director of the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences at the National Science Foundation.

“I think based on all the indicators, all the things that we would look at it as a candidate for even as a faculty position, let alone a dean, he really brings a tremendous amount to the table,” Robert Aller, distinguished professor at SoMAS, said.

Shepson was born in Elmira, New York and obtained his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at SUNY Cortland. After earning his doctorate in analytical chemistry and atmospheric chemistry at Pennsylvania State University, he started his career with Mobil before moving to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Laboratory. From 1987 to 1994, he worked at York University in Toronto, Canada as a professor in the department of chemistry and from 1988 to 1993 as the acting director of the Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry.

“My focus has been on how human activities are changing a variety of important Earth processes, and many of these changes are disruptive,” Shepson said. “As a result, I am passionate about the urgency of the scientific community’s work on understanding a range of Earth processes, how we can develop and advance predictability, and how we can help advise decision makers regarding investments in resilience to Earth changes.”

Over the course of his career, Shepson has also contributed to projects such as the Program for Research on Oxidants: Photochemistry, Emissions and Transport (PROPHET) at the University of Michigan Biological Station. He has also contributed to Ocean – Atmosphere – Sea Ice – Snowpack (OASIS), a multi-institution field campaign designed to study the chemical and physical interactions between the atmosphere and cryosphere after polar sunrise.

“He has that spectrum of experience in his background,” Aller said. “In a school like ours, which is very diverse in the kinds of things that people to do, that’s really a great fit.”

Moving forward, faculty say that Shepson will have to use his experience to unify the different fields of study within SoMAS.

“In a way, the challenge in our school is the broadness,” Knopf said. “Many universities have a marine science research center or an atmospheric science, but there are not many schools that have that range of fields which we have here at SoMAS.”

Knopf said everyone would benefit if Shepson is able to bring together all of disciplines at SoMAS. Shepson appears ready to embrace the challenge and is also open to the possibility of connecting SoMAS to other Stony Brook schools.

“We have an opportunity to connect SoMAS with the College of Business and with all of Engineering,” he said in regards to the area of climate change. “Redesigning the planet means there is a component here in every discipline on campus.”

Shepson said he is enthusiastic about taking on the new role.

“I like aiming high,” he said. “I can do that with SoMAS because the faculty, staff, and students are excellent, and I know that together we can do great things.”