Indian-American scientist to head America’s top science funding body NSF

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Washington, 20 Jun 2020: The US Senate has confirmed eminent Indian-American scientist Dr Sethuraman Panchanathan as the Director of the National Science Foundation, a top American body supporting fundamental research in non-medical fields of science and engineering.


Panchanathan, 58, from the Arizona State University, would head the NSF, the top American science funding body that has an annual budget of USD 7.4 billion.


Known as “Panch” among his friends and family, he is considered as a transformational leader whose human-centred efforts have led to positive changes on a global scale. His unanimous confirmation on Friday by the US senate at a time of bitter political divide is rare in the current Congress and reflective of his popularity as a top scientist. In fact, his nomination process was fast tracked by the Senate.


He would replace France Córdova, whose six-year term ended in March, as the 15th director of the NSF. He is expected to take office on July 6.


“My personal mission is to inspire, empower and serve humanity through life-changing innovations that have the potential to alter the face of how we view ‘different abilities’ on a global scale,” Panchanathan was quoted as saying on his personal website.


He is the second Indian-American ever to be nominated to the prestigious science position with the first being Dr Subra Suresh who served from October 2010 to March 2013.


“He has a universal support with Republicans and Democrats. a unanimous approved confirmation in the Senate… this shows a great guy for the job. The Indiaspora community is so proud that someone like him is representing not just us but the greater community,” Indiaspora founder and eminent venture capitalist M R Rangaswami told PTI.


Panchanathan is the Vice President for Strategic Initiatives of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). He was 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. A Fellow of the NAI, 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 a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of Ottawa in 1989.



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