Following a national search, Pratt Institute has named Helio Takai as the new dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences (SLAS). He is an accomplished physicist and educator whose work has ranged from research for the CERN Large Hadron Collider to promoting science curriculum for students of all disciplines. Takai, who became dean effective June 6, 2022, has led SLAS as interim dean since July 2019.
“Helio brings to his work as dean research habits cultivated through a long career as a physicist, asking from the beginning of his tenure what it really means to study the liberal arts in an institution devoted to art, design, and architecture,” said Provost Donna Heiland. “His advocacy for SLAS has already set in motion processes to strengthen the School’s departments and programs, as well as its staffing and infrastructure. I look forward to working with him on all of this and much more.”
As interim dean, Takai navigated SLAS through the challenges of the pandemic while advancing its core work, paying particular attention to the General Education program that is required for all art and design undergraduates. This robust curriculum cultivates in students a range of competencies, gained through courses in Humanities and Media Studies, Mathematics and Science, Social Science and Cultural Studies, and History of Art and Design. SLAS also offers several undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs.
“I am thrilled to continue serving Pratt Institute as the dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences,” Takai said. “I am looking forward to collaborating with other schools at Pratt to continue providing the best liberal arts education to our students. Pratt is my second home, professionally speaking, and I hope that I can contribute positively to its success.”
Additionally at SLAS, Takai is reimagining the Intensive English Program that supports Pratt’s international student community, and seeks to support faculty in both their teaching and their research/creative work. At the Institute level, he co-designed the inaugural Research Leadership Mentoring program, working with the Provost’s office and especially the Office of Research and Strategic Partnerships. Before taking on the role of interim dean, he served as chair of SLAS’s Mathematics and Science Department, where he oversaw its programs and focused particularly on developing curriculum that would best serve Pratt’s diverse students.
Prior to arriving at Pratt, Takai earned tenure and the rank of physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory where he pursued a research career for nearly 30 years. His research included time at the CERN Large Hadron Collider beneath the France–Switzerland border where he was involved in the construction, operation, and data analysis of the ATLAS particle detector experiment, one of the experiments that discovered the Higgs boson in 2012. He has received numerous grants and published and presented extensively, including serving on panels for the National Science Foundation and National Academy of Sciences panels.
His career has involved much international collaboration, including time spent as a visiting scientist and professor at universities in Italy and Brazil and as a member of international research teams. He has also served as an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University and as a mentor to high school physics teachers, college students, and high school students.
Takai holds a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and a BS in Physics and MS in Nuclear Physics from the Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.