Trump Fills Out National Science Board With Final Picks

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Publication date: 
3 December 2020

President Trump has made his last two appointments to the National Science Board, the governing body for the National Science Foundation, bringing it to its full complement of 24 members.

NSB NSF combo 4-color logo JPG.jpg

The NSF and NSB logos

Image credit – NSF / NSB

Last week, the White House announced President Trump’s final two appointments to the National Science Board, astronomer Matthew Malkan and mechanical engineer Scott Stanley. Their addition will bring the body up to its full complement of 24 members for the first time since eight members’ terms expired in May.

NSB is the governing board of the National Science Foundation and its members are appointed for staggered six-year terms, with a two-term limit. Appointments have not been subject to Senate confirmation since the enactment of a law in 2012 that aimed to speed the appointment process for various positions across the government. The board itself assembles recommendations for new members, though the president has discretion on whom to appoint.

NSB shapes NSF’s annual budget submission to the White House and votes on whether to approve major funding awards, such as those for large facility construction projects. It also has a statutory mission to provide advice to the president and Congress on scientific matters, including by producing a biennial statistical report on the status of the U.S. science and engineering enterprise. Earlier this year, the board released a strategic plan identifying its priorities for the coming decade, called Vision 2030.

During his time in office, Trump has named 16 members to the board. In November 2018, he made five new appointments: planetary scientist Alan Stern, mechanical engineer Suresh Garimella, plant biologist Steven Leath, biotechnology executive Stephen Willard, and neurobiologist Maureen Condic. He also appointed geophysicist Maria Zuber and chemist Geraldine Richmond to second terms and later named computer scientist Daniel Reed to join that cohort of members.

This year he has made one reappointment and seven new appointments:

Roger Beachy is an emeritus biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis. From 2009 to 2011, he served as the first director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. He earned a doctorate in plant pathology from Michigan State University in 1973 and focused his research career on identifying applications of agricultural biotechnology. This is his second term on the board. During his first term, he chaired the task force that produced the Vision 2030 report.

Heather Wilson served as Secretary of the Air Force from 2017 to 2019, during which time she oversaw the development of a new Air Force science and technology strategy and worked with then-NSF Director France Córdova to initiate a research partnership between the agencies. She is currently president of the University of Texas at El Paso, a predominantly minority-serving public research university, and she previously led the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Wilson was also a Republican member of the House from 1998 to 2009, representing New Mexico’s first district. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1982 and a doctoral degree in international relations from Oxford University in 1985.

Darío Gil is director of IBM Research, where he guides innovation strategy in areas such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, quantum computing, and exploratory science. Gil joined IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in New York after receiving a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT in 2003. An advocate for public-private collaborative research models, Gil has written extensively in support of the National Quantum Initiative and was an architect of the COVID-19 High-Performance Computing Consortium, which provides access to public and private supercomputing resources for COVID-19 research. Gil served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology after it was reconstituted by Trump in 2019, but stepped down when he was appointed to NSB.

Sudarsanam Suresh Babu is a professor of advanced manufacturing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and is director of the university’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. He also works in the Energy and Transportation Division of Oak Ridge National Lab. Previously, Babu founded the Center for Integrative Materials Joining Science for Energy Applications at Ohio State University, an NSF Industry-University Cooperative Research Center, and led the Ohio Manufacturing Institute. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering at the PSG College of Technology in India and a doctorate in materials science from Cambridge University in 1992.

Aaron Dominguez is a particle physicist and provost of the Catholic University of America. He is an expert in particle detector instrumentation and has held leadership roles in experimental collaborations at CERN and Fermilab. He received a doctoral degree in physics from the University of California San Diego in 1998.

Melvyn Huff is a mathematics lecturer at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, where he has developed methods for teaching calculus. Huff previously worked in private industry and conducted research on radar tracking and data processing. He received a doctoral degree in mathematics from Northwestern University.

Matthew Malkan is a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles. He earned a doctorate in astronomy from Caltech in 1983 and his research has focused on the evolution of galaxies and the supermassive black holes at their centers.

Scott Stanley is vice president of technology for Techno Planet, an aerospace engineering firm he co-founded in 2008. Previously, he held senior roles at Schaeffer Magnetics, Moog, and Alliance Spacesystems. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Loyola Marymount University.

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