Provost Persis Drell will address medical school graduates

Provost Persis Drell
Provost Persis Drell

Provost PERSIS DRELL, the James and Anna Marie Spilker Professor and professor of physics and of materials science and engineering, will be this year’s keynote speaker at the School of Medicine’s diploma ceremony on June 15.

Drell is a physicist who has served on the Stanford faculty since 2002. She is the former dean of the School of Engineering and former director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Drell earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Wellesley College in 1977 and a PhD in atomic physics from the University of California-Berkeley in 1983. She then switched her research focus to high-energy experimental physics and worked as a postdoctoral scholar at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She joined the physics faculty at Cornell University in 1988.

In 2002, Drell joined the Stanford faculty as a professor and director of research at SLAC. In her early years there, she worked on the construction of the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. She was named SLAC’s deputy director in 2005 and its director in 2007. She led the 1,600-employee national lab until 2012 and is credited with helping broaden the focus of the laboratory, increasing collaborations between SLAC and the main Stanford campus and overseeing transformational projects.

Among the projects Drell oversaw was the transition of SLAC from being a laboratory dedicated primarily to research in high-energy physics to one that is now seen as a leader in a number of scientific disciplines. In 2010, the laboratory began operating its Linac Coherent Light Source. LCLS is the world’s most powerful X-ray free electron laser, which is revolutionizing the study of the atomic and molecular world.

In 2014, Drell was named the dean of the Stanford School of Engineering, where she catalyzed a collaborative, schoolwide process, known as the SoE-Future process, to explore the future of engineering education and research. She became university provost on Feb. 1, 2017.