A scientist who is the chief academic officer at Manhattanville College will become Hofstra University's new provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, school officials announced Thursday.

Gail M. Simmons, 56, a geneticist and professor of biology, will be the first female provost at the Hempstead institution. She replaces Herman Berliner, who retires at the end of this semester after 24 years as provost and 44 years at Hofstra.

"In Dr. Simmons we have found an academic leader who is both creative and collaborative, who understands the challenges and opportunities in higher education and who has successfully worked with faculty, staff and students to find solutions at the academic institutions she has led," President Stuart Rabinowitz said in a statement.

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Simmons will begin her new position in July. She was selected after a national search that included input from faculty, students, administrators and trustees, university officials said.

"I see Hofstra having grown and expanded and become more prominent over the last 15 years and poised to make a big name for itself on the national and international higher education scene," Simmons said in a telephone interview with Newsday on Thursday.

Simmons said she was attracted to the school because of its "broad and deep variety of kinds of educational experiences, along with the traditional liberal arts." She said her science background will help grow the university's programs in health care and engineering. She is particularly interested in bioengineering.

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Since the opening of the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, the university has boosted its health care and science courses on both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

During her five years at Manhattanville, a 2,700-student private college in Purchase, Simmons led the development of the college's strategic plan as well as the creation of the School of Arts and Sciences.

Simmons received her doctoral degree from the Department of Genetics at the University of California, Davis, and a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences from the University of Pittsburgh.

Berliner, who announced his retirement in fall 2014, will return to the faculty after a sabbatical, the university said.