Winter 2001

Polymer Scientist Comes Home as Dean for Research


fter rusticating along the Tennessee River at Knoxville for nearly 20 years, Spiro D. Alexandratos is coming home. Born and raised in Washington Heights and a graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School, Dr. Alexandratos is leaving his endowed chair, the Celanese Professorship in Polymer Science at the University of Tennessee, to become CUNY's new University Dean for Research, beginning Feb. 1.
Dr. Alexandratos
New Dean for Research Alexandratos in his Knoxville, Tennessee, laboratory.

He will also be leaving three years' service as a prestigious Collaborating Scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is 24 miles north of Knoxville.

Alexandratos's research, which garnered him during those three years $684,000 in Department of Energy grants, has brought him 12 patents, two of which have been commercialized. He has focused on large molecules called polymers and their use as reagents in recovering pollutants from the environment. In particular, he and his colleagues have sought to employ polystyrene beads with phosphorous groups that are able to attract the metal ions in radioactive waste from water.

One example of his work is an ion exchange resin synthesized in his laboratory. A company he co-founded to manufacture it has disseminated $2 million worth of this resin to other companies for evaluation as a remover of toxic metal ions, including radionuclides, from their process streams.

The new Dean for Research will lead the University's recently formulated plans to build major areas of research strength, develop large-scale, multi-campus external funding initiatives, and supervise the Office of Technology, Licensing Management and Support and such programs as the Graduate Research and Technology Initiative and the Collaborative Incentive Awards Program

"Being University Dean for Research," Alexandratos says, "offers a tremendous opportunity to work with the many talented faculty at CUNY to enhance the visibility of the University both nationally and internationally by helping to coordinate world-class interdisciplinary research."

In recognition of the importance of the role of Dean for Research in effecting the CUNY Master Plan, his office is being relocated from the Research Foundation to the Central Office at 80th Street.

The holder of a B.S. from Manhattan College and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, Alexandratos, who expects to continue his polymer research while at CUNY, is asked what he will miss most about the hills of eastern Tennessee. "The real estate prices!" Then he adds, "I have several students who would love to follow me to New York City, but they are daunted by the huge prices for small spaces." What has he missed most about his home town? "The Metropolitan Opera."

In announcing the Alexandratos appointment as a senior member of her Office of Academic Affairs, Executive Vice Chancellor Louise Mirrer noted his advocacy of interdisciplinary scholarship and his many close contacts with the chemistry and engineering communities, as well as the Department of Energy. "I am confident that Dr. Alexandratos's oversight of this critical area will enable us to move forward in our research agenda," Mirrer said, emphasizing in particular the new Dean's major role in Chancellor Matthew Goldstein's strategic plan to create flagship.