Data science leader tapped as dean of Purdue College of Science

June 19, 2017


patrick wolfWEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A data science leader and Royal Society Research Fellow from University College London has been chosen as the next Frederick L. Hovde Dean of the College of Science at Purdue University.

Patrick J. Wolfe, professor of statistics and computer science and EPSRC Established Career Fellow in the Mathematical Sciences at UCL, was selected from a group of five finalists following a national search. He will join Purdue on July 17.

“At today’s Purdue, excellence in the College of Science is crucial not only for its own students but to those in almost all fields of study,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said. “And data science likewise is increasingly essential to leadership across the disciplines. Given these realities, Patrick Wolfe is a world-class recruit and a perfect fit for this critical position.”

Wolfe, a native of the Midwest who joined the faculty of University College London in 2012 after teaching at Cambridge and then Harvard, is the founding executive director of UCL’s Big Data Institute. He is also a trustee and non-executive director of the Alan Turing Institute, the United Kingdom’s new $100 million national institute for data science, where he has played a leading role in establishing the institute and shaping its priorities through an extensive program of engagement with a diverse range of experts and stakeholders. A past recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the White House while at Harvard, he has provided expert advice on applications of data science to policy, societal, and commercial challenges, including to the U.S. and U.K. governments and to a range of public and private bodies. He has also forged strong bilateral international scientific connections, not only between the U.S. and U.K., but also across the globe with countries as diverse as India, Japan and Singapore.

In his role at Purdue, Wolfe will be responsible for the seven departments in the College of Science: biological sciences; chemistry; computer science; earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences; mathematics; physics and astronomy; and statistics. In addition, he’ll oversee numerous interdisciplinary programs and centers within the college, and will support its core mission to its broad community of internal and external stakeholders. The college enrolls nearly 5,000 students and its faculty are leading several of Purdue’s newest and most exciting initiatives in areas ranging from drug discovery and immunology to integrative neuroscience and quantum computing.

“Both Purdue and the college have made great strides in recent years, strengthening a proud tradition, and I’m eager to build on these successes and further enhance our global impact through a college that is at the center of Purdue's discovery, learning, and engagement missions,” Wolfe said. “It is time for us to celebrate the college's successes and to accelerate our collaborative efforts, embracing the interdisciplinary nature of science research and education and reinforcing this key aspect of our land-grant heritage. It is with much anticipation that I look forward to joining Purdue’s community of scholars, and to meet many more of our outstanding students, staff, faculty, and alumni.”

A 1998 graduate of the University of Illinois in electrical engineering and music, with a 2003 doctorate from Cambridge, where he held a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship, Wolfe specializes in the mathematical foundations of data science. He has received awards for his research from a number of international bodies, including the Royal Society, the Acoustical Society of America, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He is active in the global mathematics, statistics, and physical sciences communities, and most recently was an organizer and Simons Foundation fellow at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences 2016 semester research program on Theoretical Foundations for Statistical Network Analysis.

“Patrick Wolfe brings an outstanding track record of research and academic leadership, with a proven capacity for building strong internal and external relationships across the sciences,” said Provost Deba Dutta. “I am confident that Dr. Wolfe will further enhance the excellence for which the College of Science and its faculty are well-known.”     

Commenting on Wolfe's appointment to lead the College of Science, Ivan Parkin, UCL's dean of mathematical and physical sciences, said, “As one of our key young leaders, Patrick has championed a number of major initiatives across UCL, including new efforts in research and education, equality and diversity, and corporate and international partnerships, as well as driving our institutional efforts in data science and working closely with the U.K. government and our national academies. We congratulate both Patrick and Purdue on this key appointment and look forward to following his continued successes closely.”

Anthony Finkelstein, the U.K. government's chief scientific adviser for National Security, said, “Patrick is widely recognized as a research pioneer and senior scientific leader, and has been a key contributor to many aspects of data science research and policy impact across the U.K. He will be a great addition to Purdue's team and I look forward to extending international collaboration under his leadership.”

Wolfe succeeds Craig Svensson, interim dean of the College of Science, who will continue in the position until July 16. Jay Akridge, Purdue’s Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture, and Ei-ichi Negishi, the Herbert C. Brown Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, led the search committee efforts that culminated with the selection of Wolfe to lead the college. 

Contact: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077,

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