President Donald Trump announced Dec. 19, 2019, his intent to nominate an Indian-American to head the nation’s apex science agency.
Sethuraman Panchanathan, Ph.D. currently the executive vice president and chief research and innovation officer at Arizona State University, is set to lead the National Science Foundation.
If he is cleared by the U.S. Senate, which in all probability will happen, Panchanathan will be the second Indian-American to head the NSF. He is preceded by Subra Suresh, Ph.D., who served as Director from 2010 to 2013.
Panchanathan, a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology (1986), is the Founding Director of the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing at ASU.
An electrical engineer by training, Panchanathan was appointed to the National Science Board (NSB) in 2014 by then U.S. President Barack Obama for a six-year term, and served as the Chair of the Committee on Strategy for NSB.
He also served as a member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the White House noted in a press release.
Panchanathan is the vice president for Strategic Initiatives of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).
He was the Chair of the Council on Research of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and Co-Chair of the Extreme Innovation Taskforce of the Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils.
He was appointed as Senior Advisor for Science & Technology by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey in 2018.
Dr. Panchanathan is a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Society of Optical Engineering.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Madras in 1981 and in Electronics and Communication Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science in 1984. He then earned his master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in 1986 and Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of Ottawa, Canada, in 1989.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…” NSF is vital because we support basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future.
The NSF has an annual budget of $8.1 billion (FY 2019), and is the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing, the website of the agency says.