National Science Board Elects New Chair and Vice Chair

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Publication date: 
10 June 2016

In May, the National Science Board elected planetary geophysicist Maria Zuber as chair and computer scientist Diane Souvaine as vice chair. With France Córdova serving as National Science Foundation Director, top leadership positions at the foundation are now all occupied by women for the first time.

NSB Chair Maria Zuber and Vice Chair Diane SouvaineAs noted in a May 24 National Science Board (NSB) press release, for the first time in history women will hold the positions of National Science Foundation (NSF) director and chair and vice chair of the NSB. During its May 5-6 meeting, the board elected as chair Maria Zuber, vice president for research at MIT and an accomplished planetary geophysicist, and as vice chair Diane Souvaine, vice provost for research at Tufts University and a theoretical computer scientist.

As chair and vice chair, the two women will lead the 24-member body that oversees and governs NSF, and alongside NSF Director France Córdova will pursue national policies promoting research and education in science and engineering. Upon her election at vice chair, Sovaine remarked:

The board is proud of NSF’s accomplishments over its 66 years, from the discovery of gravitational waves at LIGO to our biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report on the state of our nation’s science and engineering enterprise. I look forward to working with Congress, the Administration, the science and education communities, and NSF staff to continue the agency’s legacy in advancing the progress of science.

According to the NSF press release, Zuber’s research “bridges geophysics and the technology of space-based laser and radio systems,” and she has “held leadership roles associated with scientific experiments or instrumentations on nine NASA missions.” Souvaine’s research in computational geometry “has commercial applications in materials engineering, microchip design, robotics, and computer graphics.

Zuber and Souvaine will be responsible for setting the agenda of the board and serving as faces of NSF and the national scientific community to Congress and the public. Zuber and Sovaine are filling the shoes of former chair Dan Arvizu, Precourt Energy Scholar at Stanford University and former director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and former vice chair Kelvin Droegemeier, vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma—both of whom have now rotated off the board after serving 12 years, including the last four years as chair and vice chair.

Six other NSB members also completed their six-year terms on May 10:

  • Bonnie Bassler, professor of molecular biology at Princeton University;
  • Arthur Bienestock, professor of photon science at Stanford University and former president of the American Physical Society, an AIP member society;
  • Alan Leshner, chief executive officer (CEO) emeritus and former CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science;
  • Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago and chair of the boards of Argonne National Laboratory and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory;
  • Carl Lineberger, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Colorado in Boulder; and
  • Annelia Sargent, professor of astronomy at Caltech and former president of the American Astronomical Society, an AIP member society.

In May, President Obama nominated Sargent and Lineberger to each a serve second term, and so they will remain on the board. NSB members serve for a six-year term, which can be renewed. You can find the full list of current NSB members here.

Congressionally chartered via the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, the NSB is a governing board for NSF and serves as an independent body of advisors to the President and Congress on policy matters related to science, engineering, and STEM education. The NSB also publishes major reports, policy papers, and statements on issues of importance to U.S. science and engineering.  The board’s most recent report Higher Education as a Public and Private Good examines the public and private benefits of the nation’s higher education institutions.


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