Dr. Jacobs is the Chief Academic Officer at Santa Clara and a Professor of Chemistry. He provides leadership and management for all aspects of academics, student life, information services, and athletics and ensures that the educational programs and offerings are consistent with the University's vision, mission, and values. Dr. Jacobs reports directly to University's president, Michael Engh, S.J.
Prior to his current appointment, he was at the University of Notre Dame where he joined the faculty as a chemistry professor in 1988 and was appointed Vice President and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies in 2004. While serving in the latter capacity, his contributions included enhancing the practice and evaluation of teaching, advancing study abroad opportunities, supporting assessment of student learning, implementing the Academic Code of Honor, and reorganizing the University's enrollment management efforts. He helped recruit a more diverse undergraduate student body through a variety of strategic initiatives, including modifying Notre Dame's financial aid packaging.
He also worked to implement the core curriculum and established the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement to cultivate scholars and enhance research opportunities for students. He initiated a Residential Scholars program to help bridge the divide between academic and residential life.
His research has focused on studying reactions relevant to semiconductor processing in the microelectronics industry. He studied non-thermal processes at the gas/solid interface, for which he was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation research fellowship in 1993. In 2008, he launched a yearlong experiment on the International Space Station to record how polymeric materials (plastics) degrade under continuous attack by energetic particles in low earth orbit. The research sought to identify and inhibit chemical pathways by which synthetic materials are eroded on the exterior of an orbiting spacecraft. These experiments were part of a national effort to develop inexpensive, lightweight materials for use in next-generation satellites.
Dr. Jacobs has published extensively and received numerous grants and awards. Among his awards are the Thomas P. Madden Teaching Award at Notre Dame, designation as a Carnegie Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the prestigious U.S. Professor of the Year for Doctoral and Research Universities by CASE, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
Dr. Jacobs was active in the local community in South Bend. He created, and then taught, a community-based learning course in which students collected dust, soil, and water samples from local homes to identify and reduce the risk of lead poisoning in young children.
He earned his Doctorate in Chemistry from Stanford University after receiving two Bachelor's degrees, in Chemistry and Physics, from the University of California at Irvine. In 2007, UC Irvine recognized him with a Lauds & Laurels Award for distinguished alumni.
Dr. Jacobs, who played jazz piano in college, views his role at Santa Clara much like the director of a jazz band – someone who inspires and draws upon the talents of each musician in the ensemble to create a unique composition. He has reflected, "In order to bring coherence and vision to the University, the Provost needs to recognize the diversity of strengths and talents across the campus and leverage them strategically to advance programs in support of the University's goals."