Yes, you can go home again.
Just ask Cynthia B. Peterson, newly appointed dean and first woman of the College of Science, and professor of biochemistry at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where she graduated Magma Cum Laude in 1979 with a bachelor’s in biochemistry.
From there, she trekked a tad north to the LSU Medical School in Shreveport to earn both master’s and doctorate degrees in biochemistry.
Following a stint at the University of California, Berkeley, for postdoctoral training, she began what would become a 22-year affiliation with the University of Tennessee.
First, she assumed the position of assistant professor of biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology, eventually being appointed associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“This immersed me in administration at the college level,” Peterson said, “and laid the groundwork for me to step into this new position at LSU.”
When she checked in as the new dean, she toted a plethora of professional honors and awards.
On the personal side, the roots run deeper than the early academic degrees.
“My parents both graduated from LSU, where they met,” she said, “and I was born in Baton Rouge.
“It does feel like coming home, even more than I anticipated,” she noted.
There’s limited time to hang out with longtime chums given that this gregarious and dedicated administrator is very hands-on and moving quickly to get a handle on her new and demanding academic position.
For starters, she assigned herself the formidable task of meeting individually with each of the approximately 200 faculty members in the college.
“It’s a great experience for me to learn who these hardworking, dedicated people are and what they are doing,” Peterson emphasized. “They really seem to appreciate that.
“This is an exciting time at LSU,” she noted. “It’s a growth time, a time to implement new initiatives that continue under a strong tradition of excellence.”
High Regard for Geoscience
A focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related subjects has become a kind of cause du jour, particularly in the world of academia. Any college of science, by definition, would be front and center in this milieu.
“At LSU, I see investment into key strategic areas, particularly the STEM disciplines,” Peterson noted. “So I have the opportunity to think about doing new things, such as adding faculty to the college to better meet demands in terms of growing our excellent student body.”
The new dean conveyed high regard for geosciences at LSU, noting that geology is a strong program, which she is committed to growing.
“In the past five years, geology has increased its graduate program significantly and doing a great job in grooming its students for success,” Peterson said. “Top quality master’s and Ph.D. students are coming out and getting placed in some of the best jobs in the country.
“Geology enjoys a uniquely close relationship with industry, and support from the corporate and private community has had a big impact on the quality of programming that is available for student experiences and research,” she noted.
Peterson emphasized that the geology and geophysics department is interested in hearing about the needs in the field and responding.
“There’s an emphasis on being proactive, rather than reactive, in terms of trying to meet the demands from industry,” she said.
The savvy Peterson anticipates innumerable trips to nearby Houston. Given its role as the hub of the global energy industry, it is a beacon to geologists and geophysicists alike.
“A lot of times, I hear people refer to Houston as LSU-west,” Peterson quipped.