James Hildreth, Dean of the College of Biological Sciences
James E.K. Hildreth is the new dean of the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences and is joining the departments of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Internal Medicine.
Dr. Hildreth has been affiliated with a string of prestigious universities, earning his bachelor degree from Harvard University in 1979, his doctorate from Oxford University in immunology in 1982 as a Rhodes Scholar, and his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1987. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences.
Before coming to UC Davis he was an immunologist and professor, and directed the Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research, at Meharry Medical College in Tennessee. Prior to that Dr. Hildreth was a tenured professor and Associate Dean at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Hildreth’s area of expertise is how HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, enters cells and causes infection. In 2001, while serving as chief of the Division of Research for the National Institute of Health’s National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Hildreth and his research team made an important discovery related to HIV, which causes AIDS.
The team found that cholesterol is active in HIV’s ability to penetrate cells and that removing the fatty material from a cell's membrane can block infection. Hildreth’s team has used this discovery as the basis for developing topical microbicides — or chemical condoms — to block transmission of the virus.
Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter have great expectations for him as well. "James joins us at a time of great opportunity for UC Davis and for the College of Biological Sciences,” Katehi said. “Under his guidance, I am confident that the college will achieve a leadership position both nationally and internationally through innovation in education and research and commitment to public service.”
Hexter, who oversaw the search process, highlighted Hildreth’s achievements: “James’ resume and experience in the lab and in the classroom make him the ideal candidate to lead and mentor a faculty and student body that represent the promise of biological sciences across our nation and around the world.”
At the College of Biological Sciences, Hildreth will serve as dean to 125 faculty, 5,312 undergraduates enrolled in 10 majors, 455 graduate students enrolled in eight graduate groups and 397 full-time equivalent staff. He will manage an annual budget of nearly $90 million, including nearly $60 million for research. The college also boasts more than 32,800 alumni.
For his part, Hildreth said he relishes the opportunity to work with a large student population in biological sciences, particularly the 5,300-plus undergraduates enrolled in the college.
For example, he said, when he served earlier in his career as associate dean for Graduate Student Affairs at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, he created a summer research program for underrepresented minorities and was active in recruiting undergraduate students for graduate programs.
“Almost every year, I invite a few undergraduates to work in my lab,” added Hildreth, who will continue his work on microbicides as well as research on how cholesterol controls the genes of HIV. “Undergrads ask the questions no one else thinks to ask, and sometimes they come up with the answers no one else has thought of. They bring their own particular energy and spark to the lab work and the discussions.”