Robert A. Kirken, Ph.D., has been appointed dean of the College of Science at The University of Texas at El Paso.
Since 2005, Kirken has served as chair and professor of the Department of Biological Sciences at UTEP and pursued his research agenda focused on immune-derived diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, and the mechanisms through which the rejection of transplanted organs occurs. Throughout his research career, Kirken has trained a strong cadre of undergraduate and graduate students who have gone on to pursue scientific and medical careers.
Announcing Kirken’s appointment at the completion of a national search, UTEP President Diana Natalicio described him as “highly respected for both his science and his leadership skills. He has been an enormously valuable contributor to UTEP’s successful quest to become the first national research university with a 21st century student demographic.”
Kirken has received numerous awards for his research, published nearly 80 scientific works, secured patents, and generated more than $20 million in funded research support throughout his career. He also has served as program director of UTEP’s $13 million National Institutes of Health-sponsored Border Biomedical Research Center that focuses on border health issues and health disparities in our region.
“Dr. Kirken has been a major force in the recruitment, retention, development and success of a large and diverse group of students, faculty, and staff,” said Junius Gonzales, UTEP provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The wealth of knowledge and experience he now brings to the Dean’s Office in the College of Science will serve him well in this role. As someone with a close and deep understanding of UTEP, Dr. Kirken is poised to promote the expansion and productivity of the college through the support of new and existing programs, and excellence in both research and education.”
Kirken received his B.A. in chemistry from Olivet College in Michigan in 1986, completed his Ph.D. in biochemistry at Wright State University in Ohio in 1991, and held a postdoctoral research fellowship and staff scientist position at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. In 1998 he accepted a faculty position at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, where he was subsequently promoted to associate professor and tenured and remained until 2005 when he accepted the position of professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at UTEP.
Kirken’s personal experience as a first-generation, low-income college student aligns him with UTEP’s mission of access and excellence, Provost Gonzales said.
“One of Dr. Kirken’s greatest strengths is his understanding of and commitment to the students at UTEP,” he said. “As a result, Dr. Kirken has worked tirelessly to provide broad and impactful opportunities for students.”
The College of Science serves nearly 2,700 students enrolled in 30 degree programs, including 17 bachelor’s, nine master’s and four doctoral degrees. The college has the most external research funding of all UTEP’s colleges and schools.