Thursday, 01 August 2013 08:50

President Names Astrophysicist to Lead NSF and Microbiologist to OSTP as Associate Director

Written by  ASCB Post Staff
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Cordova2010France Cordova
Photo Credit:
Purdue News Service
Purdue University
President Obama announced Wednesday the nominations of France Anne Cordova, an astrophysicist and former president of Purdue University, to become Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and of Yale microbiologist and science education reformer Jo Handelsman to be the Associate Director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

If approved by the Senate, Cordova will become the permanent replacement for Subra Suresh, an engineer and metallurgist who resigned last February less than halfway through his six-year term to become president of Carnegie Mellon University. With a total budget of $7 billion in 2012, the NSF is the second largest funder of basic biology research and biology-related technology behind the NIH.

Handelsman is a professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor specializing in science education reform. Handelsman has long been a leading critic of the way science is taught at the undergraduate level and of persistent bias against women in science.

Handelsman Jo 01Jo Handlesman
Photo credit:
Michael Marsland
Yale University
In a 2009 interview with CBE-Life Sciences Education, Handelsman said that joining a research lab made all the difference in her career choice. "I started undergraduate research myself in my first year of college—I walked into a lab and asked to do experiments. The difference between doing research and reading about it is so dramatic. I've always assumed that part of the structure of an academic lab is undergraduate involvement. Interestingly, I sometimes give the undergraduates riskier projects than the graduate students, who have more to lose if their projects fail."

The OSTP mission is to advise the President on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs.