Rackham Graduate School welcomes David Sept as associate dean for academic programs and initiatives. As associate dean, he will be responsible for building and maintaining relationships with Rackham programs in engineering and the physical sciences.
As a faculty member in the U-M Department of Biomedical Engineering, Sept has continually supported the success of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. He has served as advisor to eight postdoctoral fellows, 12 Ph.D. students, and three master’s students. Among the numerous awards he has received over the course of his career are the Monica E. Schultz Outreach and Diversity Award, the Herbert Kopf Service Excellence Award, and the Advocacy Award from the Society of Minority Engineers and Scientists. He also received the Graduate Student Mentor of the Year award from Washington University, where he was a faculty member, and has served as a Director of the U-M Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA) Post-Doctoral Program since 2015.
Almost everything that is accomplished at Rackham is a team effort, and I look forward to working with this team to advance graduate education across the campus. —David Sept
In his new position, Sept will work closely with master’s and Ph.D. degree granting programs to promote academic excellence, cross-unit partnership, student recruitment, graduate career outcomes, and improved campus climate and student experience. Sept will also help to lead Rackham initiatives to advance the Strategic Vision and major goals of the graduate school.
“Individual graduate programs are often focused in a single department and primarily concerned with the students in that program,” he says. “I feel Rackham plays a role in integrating these programs across the campus, breaking down barriers when needed, and introducing connections and exchanges when appropriate. Interdisciplinary training is a great example of this, and some of the new certificate programs that have been developed are giving our students broader opportunities that better prepare them for life beyond graduate school.”
“A commitment to and investment in graduate students and postdoctoral trainees has been a hallmark of Professor Sept’s career,” Rackham Dean Mike Solomon says. “I look forward to his work in partnership with physical sciences and engineering faculty to enhance graduate education and the experience of Rackham students.”
Sept’s research focuses on the molecular interactions underlying cell function. In particular, he uses computational and theoretical methods to understand the structure, dynamics, and regulation of key polymers in the cell. He has been the associate chair of the U-M Biomedical Engineering program since 2010 and has authored more than 100 journal papers and delivered over 90 invited lectures. His academic excellence has been recognized widely by his peers, including through the 2011 Biomedical Engineering Award for Outstanding Accomplishment and as an elected fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.
Service has been a defining quality of Sept’s career. He has served on the U-M Office of the Vice President for Research’s Advisory Committee for Advanced Research Computing; as co-director and principal investigator of the U-M IRACDA program; as launch committee convener for ADVANCE; and as a panel member of the Biological Sciences Scholars Program. Externally, he has served on the editorial board for Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering and Biophysical Journal, where he is also an associate editor. He has chaired both the National Institutes of Health Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity Review Panel and the U.S. Department of Energy’s INCITE Leadership Computing Panel (Biological Sciences).
As associate dean, Sept hopes to continue to develop offerings for U-M graduate students beyond the classroom, such as internships and other professional and career development opportunities, as well as working with colleagues at Rackham and across campus to address the challenges facing graduate students today, including mental health.
“What I did not fully appreciate before arriving at Rackham was the tremendous expertise and experience of the staff,” he says. “Almost everything that is accomplished at Rackham is a team effort, and I look forward to working with this team to advance graduate education across the campus. I am hopeful we will see significant improvements in the near future with regard to mental health resources, and I am optimistic about the support that incoming President Ono will bring to this issue.”
Sept earned his undergraduate degree in physics and Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Alberta in Canada in 1992 and 1997, respectively. Following a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of California, San Diego, he joined the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis in 2001. He joined the U-M Department of Biomedical Engineering as an associate professor in 2009 and was promoted to professor in 2014.