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Eva Chi begins as School of Engineering’s inaugural associate dean for faculty affairs

September 7, 2023 - by Kim Delker

photo: Eva Chi

Longtime UNM professor Eva Chi has been selected by Donna Riley, Jim and Ellen King Dean of Engineering and Computing, as the first associate dean for faculty affairs in School of Engineering history.

Chi, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and associate chair of the department through this fall, will be tasked with matters pertaining to faculty, such as promotion and tenure policies, workload, recruitment, retention and in general making life better for faculty in the School.

“I would like to build an environment for faculty success, one in which they are doing their best work and feel valued,” she said. “I see this position as being important to promotion and tenure, as well as how we recruit and retain faculty. I’m hoping it will provide more support to faculty.”

Chi said that she would like to work with Riley and the leadership team to bring more transparency to faculty life, including making sure that faculty are familiar with policies and procedures.

Chi, who was born in China, moved to the San Francisco Bay area with her family when she was a child. She earned a bachelor’s degree from University of California, Berkeley, in chemistry and chemical engineering. She didn’t set out at first to go to graduate school, or to be an engineer.

“My passion is in fundamental science. Chemistry is what I loved. I wasn’t thinking about graduate school. Engineering was quite accidental.”

Although she briefly considered a career in industry, she soon realized that she belonged in academia, with its flexibility and freedom to pursue what interested her. She eventually saw the potential for a different kind of career.

She earned her master’s and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from University of Colorado and joined the UNM faculty in 2008. Her research has been focused on protein misfolding and aggregation in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, molecular sensors, and functional biomaterials. She also has a passion for engineering education, serving as one of the researchers on the National Science Foundation’s FACETS: Formation of Accomplished Chemical Engineers for Transforming Society project that was tasked with revolutionizing how engineering is taught.

She said that her many years as a faculty member, including moving up the ranks of the tenure and promotion process, gives her a keen understanding of the issues that faculty face, as well as ways in which the process could be improved.

“My personal experience as a faculty member informs me about what makes a good place to work,” she said “I can appreciate all of the challenges and the enormous potential of our position. Our students are very special, and I want our faculty to be successful so that they can help students succeed.”

Chi said that her work-life balance is very important to her. She and her husband have a daughter and a son, ages 14 and 11, and she prioritizes family time, which includes spending 50 days a year skiing with them. She also recently became a coach for a mountain biking team.

She understands the challenges of raising children while maintaining a busy life as a faculty member.

“I had to figure out how to have that balance. This job can be all of you, but you can’t do it all,” she said.

Chi said that she enjoyed a positive experience as a faculty member, and she wants other faculty to have that same experience.

“Many things went right for me,” she said. “It’s been a wonderfully supportive environment for me at UNM. I love my job.”