Former SLAC director Persis Drell to head Stanford School of Engineering

Drell will be the school's first female dean, ninth overall

Persis Drell, former director of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, will be Stanford University's first female dean of engineering, the university announced Tuesday.

Drell, 58, is currently a physics professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences and of particles physics and astrophysics at SLAC. She headed the 1,600-employee U.S. Department of Energy SLAC Laboratory at Stanford from 2007 to 2012. Her new appointment is effective Sept. 1.

Drell is replacing Jim Plummer, who is stepping down after serving as dean for 15 years, the longest tenure in the school's history, the university said.

"The Stanford School of Engineering is an extraordinarily successful school with unbounded future opportunities," Drell stated in a university press release. "That the school is leading innovation in such a wide array of engineering disciplines, combined with the potential for its discoveries to solve global challenges, is incredibly exciting."

The year Drell became SLAC's director, she was also named one of the "50 Most Important Women in Science" in the November 2002 issue of Discover Magazine.

She's well-accustomed to being the sole female presence in her field, from male-dominated classes during her undergraduate years at Wellesley College and later at the University of California at Berkeley, where she received a PhD in atomic physics, to the faculty makeup at Cornell University, where she taught physics in the late 1980s. She told the Weekly in a November 2002 profile that there were only two or three women out of 44 faculty members in her department that year. She was also the first woman to become director at SLAC.

Drell is credited with overseeing SLAC's transformation from a "laboratory dedicated primarily to research in high-energy physics to one that is now seen as a leader in a number of scientific disciplines," the university release states. This range of disciplines has included energy, biology, drug development and materials engineering.

In 2010, the lab began operations on the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), the world's most powerful x-ray laser.

She also boosted collaboration between SLAC and Stanford, including increasing the number of joint faculty appointments between SLAC and the university's schools.

Drell resigned from her post at SLAC in November 2011, saying at the time that she wanted to get back to her "first loves of research and teaching."

Drell is also a Gunn High School graduate and the daughter of Stanford University physicist Sidney Drell, who was the deputy director at SLAC for many years.

Related content:

Persis Drell named SLAC acting director (September 2007)

SLAC takes two giant steps (December 2007)

Fundamental questions (March 2011)

Elena Kadvany


There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Help! I’m Covered in Bugs
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 1,592 views

Calave wine bar opens in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 5 comments | 1,385 views

Constitution Guarantees Nationwide Right to Same-Sex Marriage
By Chandrama Anderson | 26 comments | 1,290 views