If Biden’s recent actions are any indication, it is clear that science will play a major role in the President’s administration. Last week, Biden elevated the role of Science Advisor to the President to a cabinet-level position for the first time in history. Eric S. Lander—a mathematician, biologist, and Rhodes Scholar—will fill this seat.
Upon multiple other accomplishments, Lander most recently taught biology at MIT and Harvard Medical School. He also founded and served as the Director of the Broad Institute, a genomic research center based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although Lander will work as a cabinet member for the first time, he has previously worked for a sitting president. During the Obama administration, Lander co-chaired the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Over the next four years, Lander will also lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OTSP) while fulfilling his cabinet duties.
Alondra Nelson, Biden’s choice for the Deputy Director for Science and Society will work alongside Lander at the OTSP. Nelson received a Ph.D. in American Studies at New York University and is currently serving as the president of the Social Science Research Council at Princeton. Among other accolades, Nelson was appointed to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Medicine.
Biden plans to expand the OTSP team with additions such as Kei Koizumi as the OSTP Chief of Staff and Nardi Jones as the Legislative Affairs Director. Both Koizumi and Nardi share impressive backgrounds in STEM; Koizumi previously worked as Obama’s Assistant Director for Federal Research and Development, and Jones served as the Senior Technology Policy Advisor for Democratic senators on the U.S Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Among other appointees, Biden chose Frances H Arnold and Maria Zuber as the co-chairs of the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Arnold has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from UC Berkeley and most recently taught Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry, and Bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology. In 2018, Arnolds became the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in chemistry. She also received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from ex-President Barack Obama. Arnolds will be working closely with Maria Zuber, a remarkable scientist who led 10 NASA missions and was the first woman to head a planetary mission for NASA.
Biden also chose Francis S. Collins, an experienced and longstanding figure in the White House. First appointed in 2009 by Barack Obama as the Director of the National Institute of Health, Collins helped advance the medical practices of the United States today. For example, Collins previously worked on monumental projects such as mapping the human genome and discovering disease genes.
Biden has also prioritized the expansion of America’s climate change efforts. For instance, he has created a White House Office of Climate Policy and invited Gina McCarthy, a former Environmental Administrator, to lead the program. Furthermore, Massachusetts resident and former Secretary of State, John Kerry, will serve as the United States’ Climate Envoy on climate change, representing the country in diplomatic affairs with other nations.
Biden’s appointees to his Science Team are all extremely qualified. There are ex-NASA staff, Nobel Prize laureates, and former White House employees. With their credentials, years of experience, and grit, many anticipate that the Biden Administration will make tremendous progress toward advancing science in America and addressing global issues—such as climate change—abroad.
– Mika Higgins