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Lay Nam Chang

Lay Nam Chang, of Blacksburg, Virginia, served as the founding dean of the College of Science at Virginia Tech from 2003 to 2016. Prior to this, he was the last dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, serving from 2002 to 2003 when he guided the academic restructuring that resulted in two new colleges — the College of Science and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Under Chang’s leadership, the college emphasized the inherent unity in the science disciplines. In this spirit, the college launched several new initiatives, including educational pathways and degree programs that are intrinsically cross-disciplinary.

The Academy of Integrated Science was formed as the umbrella for these initiatives. Among the educational pathways are the Science, Technology and Law program, and the Integrated Science Curriculum. The Academy is also home to three new unique undergraduate degree programs: Computational Modeling and Data Analytics, Nanoscience, and Systems Biology. In addition, the college in 2015 launched the School of Neuroscience, which houses four distinctive tracks that cover the workings of the human brain, and how discoveries in this field are related to the physical and social sciences, and more broadly, the humanities.

As dean, Chang worked closely with the college’s advisory board consisting of alumni and friends, many of whom were instrumental in establishing and supporting the new programs. Under his leadership, the college successfully completed its first comprehensive campaign and raised more than $80 million in philanthropic support.

Chang earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Columbia University, and a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a theoretical physicist by training, specializing in high energy physics. Prior to joining Virginia Tech in 1978, he held positions at MIT, the University of Chicago, the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of California Santa Barbara, and the Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook University in New York. Chang was on faculty at the University of Pennsylvania before coming to Virginia Tech.

Chang served as the technical consultant to, and then the program director for, the Theoretical Physics program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) from 1992 to 1994, and then again in 2002. Since then he has served in review panels for the NSF, reviewer for the Office of Science in the U.S. Department of Energy, and as consultant to physics programs at the National University of Singapore. He currently is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.