Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Scott Strobel will be replacing ecology professor Michael Donoghue as vice president for West Campus planning and program development next semester.

Donoghue, who has headed West Campus administration since 2008, said he informed University President Richard Levin and Provost Peter Salovey during the summer that he wanted to teach and continue research during the spring semester. He will be leaving six months before the scheduled end of his term and Levin sent out an e-mail Tuesday morning to faculty and students to let them know about the upcoming transition.

“I am immensely grateful to Michael for his visionary leadership, and for his marvelous ability to assimilate the views of others, improve them, and shape them into programs that are widely embraced,” Levin said in the e-mail. “Because of the financial downturn, his initial budget for the West Campus has been reduced by some 40 percent, and yet the progress to date is astonishing.”

Donoghue said he felt the need to return to his laboratory work and a desire to interact with undergraduates as a professor.

“I haven’t had sabbatical leave or any sort of leave in 13 years, so I was feeling the need for some sort of time off to spend more time on research and working with students,” he said.

Donoghue currently heads the development of West Campus’ five science research institutes and six core facilities, centers that utilize specialized technologies, as well as its conservation and digitization centers for Yale’s libraries and museums.

Donoghue said he had planned to finish his term as West Campus vice president, but Strobel, when he accepted the position in November, said he was willing to take the position early in January.

“We thought, ‘Why wait another six months when we could make the transition now?’” Donoghue said. “I’m delighted that Scott Strobel will be heading the West Campus in its next phase of development.”

Strobel, who was chair of the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry between 2006 and 2009, recently served on the West Campus Microbial Diversity Institute Committee. He is well known among students for his “Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory” course in which students get hands-on experience in an expedition to an Ecuadorian rainforest.

Strobel said he will continue Donoghue’s work on West Campus.

“It’s a big project so trying to keep a balance between the details of making something work while at the same time maintaining the vision of directing it towards what it can be will be the challenge,” he said.

One new idea Strobel said he will strive to implement in the next couple of years is the creation of a sixth science research institute that focuses on energy, and help incorporate more physical sciences and engineering research into West Campus.

But Strobel said his main priority is to actually put into place some of the ideas that have been proposed for West Campus.

“The plans have been defined, but relatively little has been done to implement them,” he said.

Though Donoghue will no longer have an office on West Campus, he said he will pay close attention to its development.

Strobel will assume his new position on Jan. 1, 2011.