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CoAS Ushers in Academic Year With New Associate Dean and Head of Psychology

September 26, 2012 — The College of Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce that Dr. James Herbert, professor of psychology and associate dean for research and graduate education, has been named the new head of the Department of Psychology. Dr. Aleister Saunders, associate head and assistant professor of biology, has been named Dr. Herbert’s successor as associate dean.


Dr. James Herbert

Dr. James Herbert

For the last seven years, Dr. Herbert has been an instrumental and dynamic member of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Office. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of the graduate programs and graduate students in the College, ensuring improved stipends and working environments. He has also helped to bring the College to the forefront of research initiatives in the University and, in serving on numerous research committees, has aided in ensuring a coherent research infrastructure at Drexel.

Dr. Herbert’s own research career is impressive. He currently serves as the Director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program and the Co-Director of the Acceptance-Based Behavior Therapy Program in the Department of Psychology. His work on the application of new technologies to the treatment of anxiety-based disorders has gained national and international media attention. His book Acceptance and Mindfulness in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, published in 2011 with colleague Dr. Evan Forman, received an endorsement from His Holiness the Dalai Lama who called it "a most beneficial and powerful method for ensuring a healthy mind and heart."

In his time at Drexel, Dr. Herbert has not only demonstrated his research prowess but also his supreme flexibility and leadership. In 2008-2009, he assumed the role of Interim Head of the Department of Biology following the unexpected passing of the former department head. With his guidance, the department navigated an otherwise difficult time and undertook a number of initiatives, including revision of the undergraduate curriculum and important changes to doctoral programs, both of which set the stage for the department's current productivity and excellence. During his tenure as Associate Dean, Dr. Herbert also served on a number of major University committees and task forces, including the search committees for the inaugural Dean of the College of Law, the Vice Provost for Research, and the University President.

Please join us in thanking Dr. Herbert for his unparalleled contributions as Associate Dean and welcoming him into his new role as Department Head of Psychology. With his extensive resume and proven track record, we are confident he will continue to build upon the department’s already successful undergraduate and graduate programs, and flourishing research portfolio.


Dr. Aleister Saunders

Dr. Aleister Saunders

Dr. Saunders has been an integral member of the Department of Biology and the College of Arts and Sciences for the last ten years. He holds joint appointments in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Department of Neurology and Anatomy in Drexel's College of Medicine, and is the Director and founder of Drexel's RNAi Resource Center. Since 2009, Dr. Saunders has served as the Graduate Program Director in the Department of Biology. In this capacity he has spearheaded a number of initiatives to develop the program both qualitatively and quantitatively, and to place it on a trajectory for further growth. He was instrumental in establishing the department's Graduate Student Travel Awards, which support and encourage students to present at national and international conferences and workshops. Further, as a mentor to the Biology Graduate Student Association, he has helped the group develop into a highly effective and civically engaged organization.

Dr. Saunders is also an active researcher in the Department of Biology. He leads an NIH-funded research team that seeks to understand how the amyloid precursor protein is processed into peptides that cause Alzheimer's disease. Using cutting-edge molecular and genetic tools, his group aims to develop a means for preventing the development and progression of the dementia that comes with this disease.

Dr. Saunders contributions have far exceeded the bounds of the Department of Biology. He has served on numerous College and University committees and was a key figure in the construction of the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building---the largest construction project in the College's 20-year history. Throughout the project, Dr. Saunders served as the voice of the College, overseeing each detail of the design and implementation of the building and ultimately ensuring its successful completion.

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Saunders to his new role as Associate Dean. He will undoubtedly continue to build upon Dr. Herbert's tradition of balanced and effective leadership in support of research and graduate education.


Dr. Kirk Heilbrun

Dr. Kirk Heilbrun

Finally, we extend our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Kirk Heilbrun, who has led the Department of Psychology since 1999. Dr. Heilbrun directed the merger of the former MCP Hahnemann and Drexel University psychology departments into a single coherent unit, and has overseen the department's tremendous growth over the past 13 years. Under his leadership, the department has developed truly outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs. These include a renowned and highly competitive clinical psychology Ph.D. program that has been ranked 7th in the nation in research productivity, as well as a unique program in law and psychology with the Drexel University College of Law. Dr. Heilbrun has also overseen tremendous growth in faculty research, including externally sponsored programs. Even while leading the department, he has managed to achieve a high level of scholarly productivity himself (grants, publications, books, awards, editorships), serving as an inspiration and model for the faculty, and doing so with a characteristic humility and unassuming poise. Please join us in thanking Dr. Heilbrun for his many years of dedicated service. We look forward to his continued contributions as Professor of Psychology and Law in the department.

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