Jacobs School names Surtees associate dean for undergraduate education and STEM outreach

Published November 29, 2023

Jennifer A. Surtees, professor of biochemistry, has been named associate dean for undergraduate education and STEM outreach at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

A member of the Jacobs School faculty since 2007, she has served as co-director of the Genome, Environment and Microbiome (GEM) Community of Excellence, which advances understanding of the genome and microbiome, and their interaction with the environment, through research, education, community programs and art.

In her new role, Surtees will provide oversight of and strategic vision for the Jacobs School’s undergraduate educational programs, provide strategic vision for K-12 STEM educational outreach and engagement in the Jacobs School, and initiate STEM-focused community outreach for adults.

“I am elated that Dr. Surtees has accepted this leadership position within the Jacobs School,” says John C. Panepinto, senior associate dean for biomedical education and professor of microbiology and immunology. “Her appointment will elevate and expand the continuum of biomedical education in the Jacobs School, and work to develop a local STEM workforce who will be the innovators and health care practitioners of the future.”

An internationally recognized expert on genome stability and genetic diversity, Surtees’ research focuses on the general problem of maintaining genome stability, which refers to an organism’s or cell’s ability to accurately transmit genetic material to a new generation. Topics of interest include how genetic mutations threaten that stability and sometimes lead to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

As co-director of GEM, Surtees spearheaded genome and microbiome literacy programs in the community, particularly the city of Buffalo, through engaging events to promote conversation and hands-on inquiry-based activities, workshops and lessons for K-12 and adult populations.

For her work, she was honored with the Jacobs School’s Community Service Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusion and Diversity.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked with UB colleagues and the Erie County Public Health Laboratory to conduct genetic sequencing of virus samples in Western New York, aiding the region’s response, identifying new variants and helping the community understand how infections were changing locally as the virus evolved.