This summer, Xuemei May Cheng took on the role of Dean of Graduate Studies at Bryn Mawr College.
"May’s international experience, impressive research portfolio, extensive teaching at the College, and leadership of Bryn Mawr’s Department of Physics make her an ideal choice for this position," wrote Provost Timothy Harte in an email last semester announcing her appointment. "I look forward to working with her to advance the mission of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) and its contributions to the institution as a whole."
Cheng joined the faculty at Bryn Mawr in 2009, having received her bachelor’s degree in physics from China’s Nanjing University in 1997 and an M.S. in microelectronics and solid-state electronics, also from Nanjing University, in 2000. She continued her graduate studies in physics at Johns Hopkins University, where she received a master's degree in 2004 and a Ph.D. in 2006. Prior to joining the faculty at Bryn Mawr, Cheng held a postdoctoral fellowship in the X-Ray Division at the Argonne National Lab in Lemont, Ill., outside of Chicago.
Cheng has distinguished herself at Bryn Mawr as a preeminent researcher. The focus of her research is on the fabrication and characterization of nanoscale materials as well as their applications in magnetic data storage and biomedical engineering. She has engaged over 40 undergraduate students and seven graduate students, including three exchange graduate students, in her research. In Cheng’s lab, undergraduates and graduate students collaborate as dynamic partners in research and often participate as co-authors of her publications.
Cheng has received seven grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund her research, including a prestigious NSF CAREER award. Her robust publication record attests to the contributions she has made to the fields of spintronics and mechanobiology. She has published nearly 70 peer-reviewed articles in such esteemed journals as: Science, Nature Physics, Advanced Materials, Nano Letters and Physical Review Letters. In conducting research, Cheng has been awarded access to Department of Energy user facilities at national laboratories, which has allowed her to provide her physics students with meaningful experience in the field. Through both her research and extensive teaching in the physics department, Cheng has inspired many students to enter the field of physics and STEM.
Cheng served as chair of Bryn Mawr’s Department of Physics between 2016 and 2018 and from 2020 to the present. Cheng's further service to the College includes a stint on the Curriculum Committee from 2018-2020 and a number of years sitting on Graduate Council. She is now poised to guide the GSAS forward through her strong commitment to graduate studies at the College.
"I truly embrace the College's scholar-teacher model and highly appreciate the uniqueness of our graduate programs within the liberal arts college setting," says Cheng. "I believe that effective integration of graduate programs to the College can support the education for undergraduate students, provide learning and career opportunities for graduate students, and enhance Bryn Mawr's tradition of academic excellence as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts."