In 2018, Brian D. Farrell and Irina P. Ferreras became the 8th appointed Heads of Leverett, with the current title of Faculty Deans.
Brian D. Farrell grew up in a family of eight in Burlington, VT. His Floridian mother and Lebanese-descendent father kept a vibrant household that served as a meeting place for neighbors and guests; Brian's fondness for community-building started here. The proximity to Lake Champlain and Brian's natural curiosity turned him into a young naturalist. The freedom of the lake and woods in his backyard allowed for a childhood of fishing (even through the ice) and identifying birds, and eventually led to his exploration of nature through academia. Brian received a BA degree in Zoology and Botany from the University of Vermont and MS and PhD degrees from the University of Maryland. Brian works on the coevolution of insects and plants and is a specialist on the biology of beetles. Brian's career took him to the University of Colorado Boulder with his spouse Irina, where his first child, Gabriela ('16), was later born. In 1995, he returned to the East Coast with his family to accept a position at Harvard where he is a Professor in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB) and Curator of Entomology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology. He is also Director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University.
Because he believes that direct experience serves education, Brian has led long-term initiatives in the Boston Harbor Islands (in collaboration with the Boston Harbor Island Alliance) and Arnold Arboretum since 2005. These initiatives provide educational and research opportunities for undergraduates by documenting species diversity and have produced educational materials for K-12. He has mentored 10 Harvard senior theses on these topics and more, including four Hoopes Prize winners to date.
Brian also plays jazz drums and Afro-Cuban percussion in weekly ensembles, and supports the Harvard Jazz Bands. He also does cycling for exercise and is passionate for nature and sharing experiences with students and others.
Irina P. Ferreras was born and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She is one of three children and grew up amongst a large extended family (her mother was one of twelve). Growing up, she enjoyed cycling with her friends, playing card games, and going to the beach.
Team sports were a large part of Irina's formative years. Throughout high school and college, Irina was on the National Swim Team of the Dominican Republic. Through this experience, she participated in Pan American Games, World Games, and was sent to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles as Coach of the Synchronized Swimming Team. In 2003, Irina organized the Synchro events for the Pan American Games in Santo Domingo while she and Brian were on a sabbatical year there.
Irina's deep interest in agriculture led her to get an engineering degree in Agronomy from the Universidad Pedro Henriquez Urena. Irina then came to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship through LASPAU to pursue her Master's Degree in Horticulture from the University of Maryland where she and Brian met.
Irina has been a member of the Harvard community for twenty years as a Curatorial Assistant in the Harvard University Herbaria, assisting the Oakes Ames Curator of Orchids, Dr. Gustavo Romero. Irina performs digitization and archival research on the orchid collections.
Additionally, Irina and Brian have now led six Harvard Alumni Association trips to Latin America and Tanzania and are passionate about world culture, especially art, music and cuisine. Irina continues to swim and do group exercise daily, and loves to cook, entertain, and plan events. She also shares Brian's enthusiasm for nature and loves gardening. She is an avid reader of Spanish literature.
Read more about Brian and Irina in the Harvard Gazette.