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Six-year deanship proves exciting and challenging

The past six years as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science have been both exciting and challenging for Alistair MacLean. The economic crisis took its toll on Canadian universities and Dean MacLean had to navigate a difficult period at Queen’s.

Dean Alistair MacLean

“The funding situation over my years as dean has been very unstable,” says Dean MacLean, who steps down as dean in June 2013. “On the plus side, the departments and the faculty have been very creative. We are very lucky to have first-rate faculty and staff members, and we still attract some of the top students in the country. All of that is pleasant to contemplate as dean.”

Dean MacLean began his deanship in 2006 after serving as associate dean and vice dean of the faculty for several years. He first came to Queen’s as a graduate student and later, in 1971, became a faculty member in the Department of Psychology.

He now looks forward to returning to his lab and his research into sleepiness. He studies the effects of sleep loss and sleepiness on skilled performance, particularly driving. While dean, he kept the Sleep Lab running but there is now a pile of data that needs attention.

When he started his research back in the ’60s, sleep was the big unknown. People were just becoming aware of the impacts of sleep, on performance and quality of life. “It was exciting because there was so much going on at that time,” says Dean MacLean. “Everything was new and each new discovery opened up windows into further research possibilities.”

The research still grips him and he is keen to resume work in the lab using a small driving simulator. The controlled environment of the simulator allows researchers to test drivers through the night and monitor their behaviour. Dean MacLean will be on leave for the next three years to give his full attention to the research.

The university has established a committee, chaired by Provost Alan Harrison, to search for and select a new dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science.

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