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Nicholas Dirks

Nicholas B. Dirks, PhD

President and Chief Executive Officer

The New York Academy of Sciences

In the year since taking over the helm of the New York Academy of Sciences, Nicholas B. Dirks, Ph.D., an internationally renowned historian and anthropologist, has been spearheading the effort to provide the most cutting-edge data about COVID-19 to the science and business communities as well as to the public at large. Under his leadership the Academy has produced more than 30 virtual conferences — many of them free of charge — addressing all facets of the virus’ research and vaccine development, featuring the world’s leading health and infectious disease experts.

As the former Chancellor at UC Berkeley, one of the world’s premier research universities, Dirks is a strong advocate for academic collaboration across disciplines and borders to solve global problems. At Berkeley, he improved facilities and programs for undergraduates while establishing a new division for the study of data science. He strengthened alumni relations and presided over record-breaking fundraising as well as invested in major research collaborations in neuroscience and genomics. Dirks developed a close working relationship with the University of California San Francisco, and helped negotiate Berkeley’s participation in the $600 million Chan Zuckerberg BioHub, as well as global partnerships with universities in the UK, China and Singapore.

Dirks was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and has taught at the California Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, and Columbia University. At Columbia he chaired the anthropology department, later becoming executive vice president for the arts and sciences and dean of the faculty. He then served as tenth chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley and held the position of chancellor and vice-chairman of Whittle School & Studios.

Dirks has published four major books, including Castes of Mind, about changes to the caste system in India under British colonial rule. The book won several major awards, including the Lionel Trilling Award, and is widely taught in graduate curricula in the U.S. and India.

Dirks has held many fellowships and scholarships and received honorary degrees in Beijing, China, and Madras, India. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and MacArthur Foundation residential fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. In addition, Dirks is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.


For more information about Nicholas Dirks, see this profile.