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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

Mann Chair in the Sciences

The University of Dayton has appointed Umesh Haritashya as the Brother Leonard A. Mann, S.M., Chair in the Sciences. Haritashya is an associate professor of geology. He joined the University faculty in 2008.

Haritashya, a noted scientist who has received more than $3 million in research grants, will begin his four-year, nonrenewable term Aug. 16.

He succeeds Shawn Swavey, professor of chemistry, as the fifth holder of the Mann Chair. During his appointment, Swavey collaborated with faculty across the natural sciences disciplines on applications of porphyrin compounds in the medical and industrial sectors, among other accomplishments.

Named in honor of Brother Leonard A. Mann, S. M., former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of physics, the endowed chair recognizes outstanding accomplishments in and contributions to scholarship in the sciences.

“Dr. Haritashya’s research focuses on understanding glacier surface processes and climate change impact on the high mountain glaciers,” said Jason Pierce, College dean. “In the last eight years, he and his group have received more than $3 million in research grants from NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the United Nations Development Programme and the National Geographic Society.”

As Mann Chair, Haritashya plans to collaborate with faculty to integrate artificial intelligence in the natural sciences to promote scientific discovery and maximize the utility of data. He also intends to advocate human rights through science by collaborating with the University’s Human Rights Center, and creating and developing an interdisciplinary initiative around science and human rights engagement. In addition, he plans to establish the Mann natural sciences colloquium to foster collaboration and provide visibility to the sciences.

“Any conceivable vision for the University of Dayton for the next decade — as well as any probable vision for the region — should have an exceptional natural science program as a cornerstone,” Haritashya said. “Our goal must involve rising to meet this imperative: To lead the way, in partnership with others, in capitalizing on our many advantages to achieve a forefront position in areas of high impact that will benefit the University, the region and the nation.”

Haritashya has mentored students in his research lab, as well as in field research locations that include Alaska, New Zealand, the Indian Himalayas and the Nepalese Himalayas. His publication record includes 35 peer-reviewed journal articles or book chapters; one published book, with another presently under contract; and 91 conference presentations and abstracts published.

He received his doctorate in 2005 from the Indian Institute of Technology, India, where he studied glacier hydrology, modeling and image analysis. He joined the University of Dayton Department of Geology after completing his post-doctoral research appointment in NASA's international GLIMS (Global Land Ice Measurements from Space) project at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Haritashya studies the effects of climate change on glaciers in the Himalayan mountains of India and Nepal, where his work focuses on predicting glacial lake outburst flooding. These floods are devastating to the communities downstream of the rapidly growing glacial lakes.

“Vulnerability to climate change is a key human rights issue, and Umesh presented the College of Arts and Sciences with an innovative plan to apply his scientific expertise in remote sensing and geographic information systems to reducing the risks faced by vulnerable populations,” said Daniel Goldman, professor and Department of Geology chair.

The search committee included Goldman, Vladimir Benin, Wiebke Diestelkamp, John Erdei, Karolyn Hansen, Dave Johnson and Mehdi Zargham.

The late Panagiotis “Takis” Tsonis of the Department of Biology was installed in 2002 as the first Mann Chair. Robert Brecha, professor of physics, was the second chair. Peter Powers of the Department of Physics served as the third chair until his death in 2014.

Bro. Mann received a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Dayton in 1936, and returned in 1954 as a professor of physics. He soon became physics department chair and in 1959 was appointed to serve as College dean. He was instrumental in launching many new academic programs, including a doctoral program in biology — the first Ph.D. program at the University. He served as dean until 1980, when he retired from administration and returned to teaching.

At the time of his death in 1995, Bro. Mann had served as a Marianist brother for 61 years. The Mann Chair was established to recognize his outstanding example of the Marianist spirit and commitment to excellence.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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