Building excellence in research and teaching: CSB’s new Chair Nicholas Provart

Professor Nick Provart likes building things; he even used his carpentry skills to expand his children’s treehouse while working from home (without losing any fingers). As the new Chair of the Department of Cell & Systems Biology (CSB), he now has the opportunity to build up the academic excellence of the Department.

Building on the strength infused into CSB by the previous Chair, Vincent Tropepe, Provart will guide a department that is world class in life sciences research and teaching initiatives. When considering his new role, he also received valuable advice from previous Chairs Daphne Goring and John Coleman.

Provart started at University of Toronto in 2002 as an early leader in data science at the Department of Botany (now part of CSB). His laboratory established the Botany Affymetrix Resource (BAR), developing user-friendly techniques and tools for visualizing genome-wide, tissue-specific gene expression that have evolved along with the latest advances in genomics technology.

CSB is building on this Departmental expertise in data science by developing a Professional Masters in Biological Data Science. Provart anticipates this will provide benefits to graduates in finding jobs in labs, agencies or startups, and will provide productive cross-fertilization with graduate students working at the lab bench.

Provart feels “fortunate to be part of a pretty diverse and inclusive Department, University, and City”. Along with ensuring diversity of hires, he will encourage presenting a wide range of voices to be heard as speakers inside and outside the Department.  

Provart has been teaching online since 2014. When in-person lectures moved online due to COVID-19, he adapted quickly to delivering his Bioinformatic Methods course entirely online. He shares his extensive experience in online instruction as a Fellow in the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Online Learning Academy.

“I hope I will be able to help CSB and other faculty across Arts & Science get up to speed in terms of pivoting to online learning this fall” Provart says. Once in-person classes return, he will strengthen CSB’s experiential learning opportunities in upper level courses and through the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology program at CSB.

Provart believes the CSB has a “hugely important” role in promoting science outside the University, through supporting organizations like Let’s Talk Science and iGEM Toronto. “From my perspective, it was amazing to see the interest of the public at last year’s Science Rendezvous”, an outdoor science festival where CSB presented its science alongside other U of T Departments. “These community building and outreach efforts are an important aspect to us as scientists.”

Congratulations to CSB’s new Chair, Nicholas Provart!