Ask Andrew D. Hamilton, Ph.D., Yale’s new provost, if it’s an accident that both he and his immediate predecessor are scientists, and he chuckles. He points out that it took three centuries for the university to name its first scientist, Susan Hockfield, Ph.D.—who left Yale to become president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in December—as provost.

“Two scientists in 300 years is not a flood,” Hamilton said. “But, yes, I do think it represents a recognition by the institution that we need to place a very major focus on science, engineering and medicine in order to maintain Yale’s place at the very top ranks of universities worldwide.”

To that end Yale has embarked on a $1 billion building and renovation project for facilities in science, engineering and medicine, both on the central campus and at the medical school. But that’s only the beginning. “My hope is that we will be able to use these new buildings to attract some of the very best scientists in the world to ply their trade at Yale,” Hamilton said. “At the same time, we must maintain those traditional strengths of Yale University, which reside in the humanities, the social sciences and the professional schools.”

Hamilton joined the Yale faculty in 1997. He became chair of the chemistry department in 1999, where he is currently the Benjamin Silliman Professor of Chemistry. He was appointed deputy provost at Yale in 2003. Before coming to Yale he taught at Princeton and at the University of Pittsburgh. A native of the United Kingdom, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society last May.

His studies of small molecules that influence biological processes have provided insights into drug design and cancer therapies. He has also studied neglected diseases such as malaria, Chagas disease and African sleeping sickness.

As provost, Hamilton is advancing President Richard C. Levin’s vision of Yale’s role in the world. Hamilton recently traveled to China with medical school faculty members to establish and cement relationships with Chinese scientists and universities.

Hamilton is also keeping his eye on relationships within the university. “I think there are many opportunities for collaboration in research between scientists and social scientists on this side of campus and researchers at the medical school,” he said. “I hope, with my scientific background, to be able to further those connections.”