New Professorship in Science Leadership Honors Dean Emeritus Winston Ko

Winston Ko
Winston Ko

Longtime UC Davis professor and administrator Winston Ko and his wife Katy Ko have endowed a faculty chair in science leadership in the College of Letters and Science.

The Winston Ko Professorship in Science Leadership will recognize national or international science leadership by an outstanding faculty member in the departments of chemistry, earth and planetary sciences, mathematics, physics or statistics. It will be held by a tenured senate faculty member selected on the basis of excellent academic merit coupled with recognition for leading a project or intellectual effort in science that will bring prominence to UC Davis. The Ko Professor in Science Leadership will be appointed this fall.

The Kos launched the endowment with a challenge grant upon his retirement in 2013. Ninety colleagues, friends and family of the Kos answered the challenge, helping the endowment surpass its $1 million goal in 2017.

“It’s a great honor to recognize and encourage science leadership by my MPS colleagues, which both advances science and brings prominence to UC Davis and world-class education to its students,” Ko said. “It’s a great honor to have so many colleagues, friends and family joining Katy and me in establishing this professorship. And big thanks to Distinguished Professor Alexandra Navrotsky that the goal was reached on her watch as interim dean.”

The endowment honors Winston Ko’s 41 years of service to UC Davis and his leadership in research and education. Ko served as chair of the Department of Physics from 1998 to 2003 and Dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) from 2003 to 2013. (MPS was one of three separate divisions in the College of Letters and Science in 1996–2017.)

“Dean Ko’s vision for the mathematical and physical sciences has not only enriched UC Davis, it has truly expanded our knowledge,” said Navrotsky, who holds the Edward Roessler Chair in Mathematics and Physical Sciences and served as interim dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences from 2013 to 2017.

The endowment will also support the Winston Ko Public Lecture Series: Frontiers in Mathematical and Physical Sciences — a series of public lectures featuring world-class researchers. The Ko Lecture series began in 2016 with a talk by Veronika Hubeny, a UC Davis professor of physics who is probing the nature of black holes and gravity. Daniel Nocera, a Harvard professor who helped pioneer artificial photosynthesis, gave the second installment Feb. 9. The holder of the Ko Professor in Science Leadership will facilitate future lectures.

An experimental particle physicist, Ko was spokesperson (de facto leader) for experiments at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (now SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory). He led UC Davis to be one of the three American founding groups of the Compact Muon Spectrometer experiment at CERN, which discovered the Higgs boson, and served as its Muon software coordinator. As chair of physics, he built the department’s cosmology program from two faculty to a nationally-ranked group of seven. During his decade as dean, Ko oversaw major growth for the division, recruiting 57 new faculty members, doubling extramural research funding and establishing popular new programs such as the pharmaceutical chemistry major. Ko also presided over the opening of two new buildings: The Mathematical Sciences Building and the Earth and Physical Sciences Building.

Becky Oskin, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science