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Donald Trump picks Indian-American computer scientist to lead National Science Foundation

News Agencies | Updated on: 20 December 2019, 12:56 IST
Sethuraman Panchanathan

US President Donald Trump has picked Indian-American computer scientist Sethuraman Panchanathan to lead the prestigious National Science Foundation. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a US government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering.

Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "Dr Sethuraman Panchanathan brings to this position a wealth of experience in research, innovation, academic administration, and policy as exemplified by his long and distinguished career," Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said on Thursday.

Panchanathan, 58, would succeed France Cordova when her six-year term as the NSF Director ends in 2020. NSF Director is a Senate-confirmed position.

Panchanathan is currently the Executive Vice President and the Chief Research and Innovation Officer at the Arizona State University (ASU). He is also the Founding Director of the Centre for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing at the ASU. Appointed to the National Science Board (NSB) in 2014, Panchanathan served as the Chair of the Committee on Strategy for the NSB.

He also served as a member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. "Dr Panchanathan brings numerous achievements and well-earned recognition including from his role as a member of the National Science Board," Droegemeier said.

"As the Trump administration continues its undeterred focus on ensuring American global leadership in science and technology, Dr Panchanathan's commitment, creativity and deep insights will be instrumental in leading the National Science Foundation on its continued path of exploration and discovery," he said. Panchanathan is also 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 and Technology by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey in 2018.

In a statement, Panchanathan said he was "humbled and honoured" to be chosen as the NSF Director. Panchanathan earned a bachelor's degree in Physics from the University of Madras in 1981 and in Electronics and Communication Engineering from the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in 1984.

He then earned his master's degree in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras in 1986 and PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Canada-based University of Ottawa in 1989.

"Dr Panchanathan's expertise and dedication will ensure that the NSF continues to be a driving force for US discovery, innovation, and technological growth. He will be a key partner in advancing research and development in the technologies that will benefit all Americans, from artificial intelligence to quantum information science and high performance computing," said Michael Kratsios, Chief Technology Officer of the United States.


First published: 20 December 2019, 12:56 IST