Although Sharon Dent, PhD, is new to her role as dean ad interim for the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Houston Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, she has been a valuable part of the Graduate School since she joined the faculty in 1993. Both her philosophy on mentorship and her focus on the students foster a feeling of security in a new era for the institution.
Dent earned her PhD in Biochemistry at Rice University before pursuing a postdoctoral role at Baylor College of Medicine. After her time at Baylor, she filled a senior staff fellowship position at the NIH. From there, she decided to join the faculty at MD Anderson as an assistant professor and began to make a name for herself in research and education. In 2010, Dent was named the chair of the Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis department at MD Anderson’s Smithville campus. She accepted the dean, ad interim position at the GSBS in April 2022 so that she could learn from former dean, Michael R. Blackburn, PhD, before his retirement at the end of June.
As the dean ad interim for the Graduate School, Dent will continue to focus on supporting all of our students and faculty, especially during this time of transition for the GSBS. “I would love to hear from our community members as to what opportunities and challenges they see as priority in the coming year, and I look forward to getting to know our current students and new students as they come in.”
Dent views mentorship as a two-way partnership rather than a rigid hierarchy. From the time she welcomed her first student into her lab at the Graduate School in the mid-1990s, Dent has found that bouncing ideas around with her mentees lends new creative solutions that she would not have thought of otherwise.
“Students are at the frontlines of scientific discovery, and I am committed to helping each of them reach their full potential,” says Dent. Throughout her time at the Graduate School, Dent has had the pleasure of directly training 20 GSBS students, as well as several post-doctoral fellows.
Open communication is tantamount to success for Dent. Just as our students and faculty deftly communicate their scientific discoveries with peers, she believes that clearly communicating ideas, as well as challenges, to an administration that actively listens is crucial to the advancement of the school.
When she is not in the office, Dent enjoys her free time by taking nature walks and playing with her dog, Shadow. Although she has not gone much in the last few years, dancing is also an activity that brings her joy.