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Dr. Donald Birx most recently served as the Chancellor of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College – an institution serving some 4,500 students as part of the Penn State system. As Chancellor, Birx is responsible for the quality of the College’s academic programs in teaching, research, and service, and its overall operations, including strategic planning, human resources, fundraising, alumni and community relations, intercollegiate athletics and outreach. Since becoming Chancellor in 2010, Birx has worked to connect academia with the community through the College’s “open lab” initiative in which business leaders, faculty members, and students engage in research and development as teams. Other programmatic initiatives advanced during Birx’s tenure include growth of interdisciplinary partnerships and expansion and development of online and hybrid courses. The Honors program at Behrend has grown significantly over the past several years and the diversity of the student body and faculty has increased. Student appreciation scores at Behrend are among the highest in the Penn State system.
Before coming to Behrend, Birx served as vice chancellor and vice president for research for the University of Houston System (UH). His accomplishments there included the initiation of system-wide, multidisciplinary clusters that spanned UH’s colleges and campuses, focusing strategic collaboration in the areas of nano-materials, energy and natural resources, bio-med, complex systems, community advancement and education, and arts and human enrichment. Birx also founded the Center for Industrial Partnerships, a joint endeavor at UH to translate research to practical applications and increase interplay between the business community and the University’s research faculty. In addition, he held the appointment of full professor of electrical engineering.
Prior to his work at UH, Birx was interim vice provost/president for research at New Mexico State University (NMSU) in Las Cruces. There, he developed university-wide research clusters across NMSU’s colleges, emphasizing strategic collaborative endeavors in space, information science, bio-systems, natural resources, and border development. While at NMSU, he also served as president and founder of a corporate entity of the University focused on technology development and incubation, and he held an appointment as a full professor of physics.
Birx began his career in academia following 19 years at Systems Research Laboratories Inc. in Dayton, Ohio, where he advanced from senior systems engineer to product development manager, general manager of the company’s intelligent systems division, and finally vice president and team leader of technology and new ventures. He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from the University of California, Berkeley; a master’s degree in bio-physics and an MBA in finance, both from Miami University of Ohio, and a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Dayton.
He is the author or co-author of more than 20 journal articles and conference presentations. Throughout his career, he has sustained a research program, particularly in the areas of automated decision-making and event prediction, detailed in publications and also written in systems designs and software algorithms.
He and his wife, Linda, have four children: Christy, Amy, Donnie and Sierra.