Mark Richards, a geophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, and an advocate for diversity in the STEM fields, has been chosen for the second-highest leadership position at the University of Washington.

Share story

A geophysicist and expert on the Earth’s mantle has been picked to be the next provost at the University of Washington.

Mark Richards, a professor of Earth and planetary science at the University of California, Berkeley, who taught briefly at the UW early in his career, will replace Gerald Baldasty, who is retiring June 30.

The provost is the university’s second-highest position, in charge of academics and the budget. UW President Ana Mari Cauce served as provost before she was selected to lead the university.

In a statement, she called Richards “an outstanding academic leader,” and “an accomplished scientist who has made it a mission to expand the diversity of the STEM fields.”

Most Read Local Stories

Unlimited Digital Access: $1 for 4 weeks

Richards is leading an international team that is exploring the Deccan Traps volcanic eruptions, which occurred in India 66 million years ago. Those eruptions coincided with the great Chicxulub meteor impact in Yucatán, Mexico, and the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs.

Among the courses he teaches is an experimental course on “Time” as part of UC Berkeley’s Big Ideas Courses, a program he helped establish as executive dean of the university’s College of Letters & Science.

An 18-member search advisory committee, which included administrators, faculty and student representatives, began working in May to identify provost candidates, and came up with five finalists. Richards’ appointment must still be approved by the UW Board of Regents, which meets Thursday.

Richards served as dean of mathematical and physical sciences at UC Berkeley from 2002 to 2014, as well as dean of the College of Letters & Science from 2006 to 2014.

He worked to establish Berkeley’s Teaching Excellence Colloquium, which is now required of all new faculty, and collaborated with Berkeley’s graduate and undergraduate student associations to establish the UC system’s first academic honor code.

Richards is the principal investigator on several major federal and private foundation grants supporting STEM diversity, and created the California Alliance program to promote diversity among Ph.D. students, postdocs and faculty in the STEM fields. That work has led him to be honored with UC Berkeley’s highest awards for contributions to diversity.

He received his bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, then a master’s in applied physics and a Ph.D. in geophysics from Caltech, followed by a postdoc at the Australian National University. He served on the faculties of the University of Oregon and, in 1993, at the UW, and has been at Berkeley for most of his academic career.

He will be paid $450,000 a year.