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Indian American Biomedical Engineer Tejal Desai Named Dean of Brown School of Engineering

Indian American Biomedical Engineer Tejal Desai Named Dean of Brown School of Engineering

  • Currently a professor at the University of California San Francisco, she will lead the school she graduated from nearly three decades ago.

Accomplished biomedical engineer Tejal Desai’s career has come full circle after being named dean of Brown School of Engineering from where she graduated almost three decades ago. The Indian American who graduated from Brown in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, will begin her tenure on Sept. 1, succeeding Lawrence Larson, who has served as the inaugural School of Engineering dean since 2011, according to a university press release.

Currently, a bioengineering professor at the University of California San Francisco, Desai is the longtime chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences. She was also the inaugural director of UCSF’s Health Innovations Via Engineering (HIVE) initiative. 

An expert in applying micro- and nanoscale technologies to create new ways to deliver medicine to targeted sites in the human body, she has previously held academic leadership positions at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Boston University and UCSF. She is also a member of Brown’s biomedical engineering advisory board. 

“Excited to announce a new chapter,” Desai tweeted about her appointment. “Thrilled to have the opportunity to lead the school of engineering at Brown! As a freshman at Brown more than 30 years ago, I never imagined my career would come full circle.”

As dean, Desai will lead the third oldest engineering program in the U.S. and the oldest in the Ivy League. In her new role, Desai will “work to expand collaborative engineering research and teaching,” according to the university press release. Her responsibilities will include “continuing to grow the school’s research enterprise with a focus on pressing societal challenges, as well as deepening research and teaching collaboration within the school and across campus,” the press release said. “A key priority will be continuing to diversify the school’s student body at all levels while recruiting and retaining more faculty from historically underrepresented groups.”

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Desai said she looks forward to leading a program that was formative in her own career as a researcher and educator. “Brown engineers tend to be people with a very particular drive to improve the world around them,” she said. “Students come to Brown because they want to make a positive impact on society and they see engineering as a powerful way to do that. I am excited about coming back to Brown to create a vision of how the school as a whole can represent those ideals, and how it can continue to be a leader in this intersection between engineering and societal impact.” Additionally, Desai volunteers her time to advance minority students and women in science.

She was born in Huntington Beach, California in 1972 to Indian parents and spent most of her early life in Santa Barbara. After receiving her bachelor’s degree at Brown in 1994, she earned her Ph.D. jointly from UCSF and UC Berkeley in 1998. That same year, she became the first faculty hire in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s newly formed Department of Bioengineering. She joined the Boston University faculty in 2002 before moving to UCSF in 2005. She is married to Dr. Sanjay Saxena. The couple has three children.

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