Changing of the Guard After Nearly Two Decades at the Helm: Biology Chairman Steps Down

Release Date: 
Aug 23 2010

N. Douglas Lees, Ph.D., one of the longest serving department chairmen in the history of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, is stepping down as leader of the Department of Biology in the School of Science.

Doug Lees

Lees joined the faculty of the School of Science in 1973 with a new doctoral degree in microbiology and currently holds the rank of professor. He has served as department chairman since 1992. During his 18 years at the helm, the biology department has seen a four-fold increase in number of undergraduate majors, a significant expansion in graduate degrees earned, growth to 25 faculty members and major growth in external funding.

“IUPUI was formed in 1969, just four years before I arrived. I had another job offer, but I chose to come to the School of Science at IUPUI because I believed it was a place where I could play a role in an exciting transformation process – the building of a potentially great urban university. Initially I developed lecture and laboratory courses in microbiology to complete the undergraduate curriculum for majors and later developed graduate courses in virology and bacteriology. Shortly after arriving I developed a collaborative research arrangement in yeast molecular biology with a colleague that lasted for three decades. In recent years my interests shifted to the change movement in higher education and to leadership issues at the department chair level,” said Lees.

Among the accomplishments of which Lees is most proud is the creation and growth of a challenging one year master’s degree pre-professional program designed for students who wish to take additional course work to improve their academic credentials for application to medical, dental, or other professional schools. Each year the program admits about 80 students who have graduated from schools across the country. Almost two-thirds of those who earn the master’s degree are successful in their goal of being accepted by medical or dental schools.

Under Lees’ leadership, the overall number of graduates has expanded from 18 in 1992 to about 125 in 2010. Within this same period, the number of graduate students in research programs has grown from three master of science students and one doctoral candidate to 17 M.S. students and 13 Ph.D. students.

“With more graduate students there are more hands in the lab, allowing our faculty to apply for and receive more grant funding which further expands support for more undergraduate and graduate research students as well as advancing important research,” said Lees. During the past decade, Lees has focused his attention on the leadership of 21st century academic organizations and is the author of a definitive book on the topic, Chairing Academic Departments: Traditional and Emerging Expectations, published in 2006, and dozens of papers and monographs in the field. “The School of Science at IUPUI has benefited tremendously from Doug Lees’ leadership over nearly two decades. While he is stepping down from the biology chairmanship, we have been able to persuade him to remain with the school as a special advisor to the Dean, so that we can draw upon his impressive leadership talents,” said Bart S. Ng, Ph.D., dean of the School of Science and Marvin L. Bittinger Professor of Mathematical Sciences.

Lees’ successor as chairman of the Department of Biology is Simon J. Atkinson, Ph.D., an internationally respected cell biologist and award-winning teacher, who comes to the School of Science from the Indiana University School of Medicine.


The School of Science at IUPUI is committed to excellence in teaching, research, and service in the biological, physical, behavioral and mathematical sciences. The School is dedicated to being a leading resource for interdisciplinary research and science education in support of Indiana's effort to expand and diversify its economy.