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Chancellor, University of California, Berkeley,



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Robert J. Birgeneau became the ninth chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, on September 22, 2004. An internationally distinguished physicist, he is a leader in higher education and is well known for his commitment to diversity and equity in the academic community.


Before coming to Berkeley, Birgeneau served four years as president of the University of Toronto. He previously was Dean of the School of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he spent 25 years on the faculty. He is a fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of London, the American Philosophical Society and other scholarly societies. He has received many awards for teaching and for his research on the fundamental properties of materials.


In 2006, Birgeneau received a special Founders Award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences along with President John Hennessy of Stanford University and filmmaker George Lucas. Established in the 225th anniversary year of the Academy, this award honors men, women and institutions that have advanced the ideals and embody the spirit of the Academy founders — a commitment to intellectual inquiry, leadership and active engagement. In 2008, Birgeneau and President Nancy Kantor of Syracuse University received the 2008 Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award as “Champions of Excellence and Equity in Education.” Birgeneau was one of three recipients of the Shinnyo-en Foundation’s 2009 Pathfinders to Peace Prize for his contributions to bringing about a more peaceful world. The foundation singled out Birgeneau for his “commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and to the integration of public service as an essential component of the academic experience.” In 2009, Birgeneau became Chair of the Council of Presidents, Universities Research Association, Inc. as well as the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Waterloo in Canada. Most recently, in 2012, Birgeneau received the Clifford G. Shull Prize of the Neutron Scattering Society of America.


A Toronto native, Birgeneau received his B.Sc. in mathematics from the University of Toronto in 1963 and his Ph.D. in physics from Yale University in 1966. He served on the faculty of Yale for one year, spent one year at Oxford University, and was a member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories from 1968 to 1975. He joined the physics faculty at MIT in 1975 and was named Chair of the Physics Department in 1988 and Dean of Science in 1991. He became the 14th president of the University of Toronto on July 1, 2000.


At Berkeley, Birgeneau holds faculty appointments in the Departments of Physics and Materials Science and Engineering in addition to serving as Chancellor.


He and his wife, Mary Catherine, have four grown children and nine grandchildren.