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Douglas R. Cavener

by David Price Feb 20, 2020
Douglas R. Cavener

Verne M. Willaman Dean

Penn State Eberly College of Science

517 Thomas Building
University Park , PA 16802
Office Phone: (814) 865-9591


Douglas R. Cavener is internationally recognized for his research in molecular biology, genetics, and evolutionary biology. His recent work has focused on the etiology of human diseases including diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders. He came to Penn State in 2000 and has served as the department head of Biology over the past 15 years. In 2012, he was also appointed adjunct professor of Life Sciences at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology in Tanzania.  Cavener was appointed the dean of the Eberly College of Science on July 18, 2015. 

He began his academic career in 1982 as an assistant professor of Molecular Biology at Vanderbilt University and advanced to associate professor and then professor. At Vanderbilt, he was a leader in graduate education and programs in molecular biology and biomedical sciences. Over his tenure at Vanderbilt and Penn State, Cavener has trained 24 Ph.D. students and continues to mentor graduate and undergraduate students in his research lab located in the Huck Life Science Building.

He earned his B.A. in Biology in 1973 from Pasadena College; M.S. in Genetics in 1977 from Brown University, and Ph.D. in Molecular and Population Genetics in 1980 from the University of Georgia. He pursed postdoctoral studies at Cornell University for two years prior to his first academic appointment. Based on his earlier research Cavener won the prestigious Theodosius Dobzhansky Prize from the International Society for the Study of Evolution. He was recently elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.