Science & Technology

Christopher R. Smith Named Head of USU Department of Biology

Evolutionary ecologist, ant scientist takes the helm of the College of Science's largest academic department.

By Mary-Ann Muffoletto |

Christopher R. "Chris" Smith is the new head of USU's Department of Biology. Smith is an evolutionary ecologist and organismal biologist, whose research focuses primarily on social insects. (Photo Credit: USU/M. Muffoletto)

A native of the world — an oil industry brat who lived many places, to be specific — Christopher R. “Chris” Smith looks forward to, once again, living in the mountains.

But the key element that attracted him to Utah State University, he says, is a strong sense of community. Smith is the university’s new head of the Department of Biology and assumed his new post July 1.

“In my interviews with Utah State, the word ‘community’ came up again and again,” says Smith, whose most recent post was a 15-year faculty position with Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. “I sensed a very collegial, collaborative atmosphere not only within the Department of Biology but throughout the university and greater community.”

The evolutionary ecologist and organismal biologist, whose research focuses primarily on social insects (mostly ants), was greeted on his new home’s doorstep by a new colleague and his family, sleeves rolled up and ready to help, as the moving van pulled up.

“We are very excited to welcome Dr. Smith to Utah State as head of the Department of Biology,” said Science Dean Michelle Baker. “Chris is a passionate teacher-scholar and a talented leader, which makes him a perfect fit for our community.”

At Earlham College, Smith served in several leadership positions, including convenor of the Natural Science Division and the Department of Biology. He taught more than 10 topical courses while mentoring more than 30 undergraduate researchers.

Smith secured more than $1 million in external funding to support his research, which yielded more than 35 papers in peer-reviewed publications and over 2,700 citations. His publications feature 23 undergraduate co-authors.

Active in professional societies, Smith has served in leadership positions with the International Union for the Study of Social Insects. He is also a member of the Entomological Society of America and the Animal Behavior Society, and holds editorial positions with the journals Ecology & Evolution and Myrmecological News.

Fluent in Spanish, Smith has led varied public outreach efforts, including a science fair help center and presentations on insect diversity and development for elementary school students, as well as insect presentations for senior citizens.

Smith earned a doctoral degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2008. He completed a master’s degree in biology from Florida State University in Tallahassee in 2004, and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in zoology and Spanish from the University of Texas at Austin in 2000.

Smith succeeds Professor Al Savitzky, former department head, who served as interim head following the retirement of Professor Emerita Diane Alston in 2023.

The Department of Biology is the largest academic department in USU’s College of Science. Its undergraduate and graduate degree programs include emphases in human biology, ecology and evolutionary biology and cellular and molecular biology, as well as public health degrees with emphases in industrial hygiene, environmental health and public health education.


Mary-Ann Muffoletto
Public Relations Specialist
College of Science


Christopher R. Smith
Department Head and Professor
Department of Biology
(435) 797-1909

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