Panther Valley grad named to Biden’s science council
A Summit Hill native and 1976 graduate of Panther Valley High School has been named to a top science post in President-elect Joseph Biden’s administration.
According to a release on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology website, Maria Zuber has been named co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), along with Caltech chemical engineer Frances Arnold, a 2018 winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Zuber and Arnold will be the first women ever to co-chair PCAST.
Separately, Biden announced earlier this week that he will nominate Gary Gensler, professor of the practice of global economics and management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Eric Lander, also from MIT, has been named Presidential Science Advisor, a position he will assume soon after Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. He has also been nominated as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), a position that requires Senate confirmation.
Zuber and other appointees joined Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday afternoon, where the president-elect introduced his team of top advisors on science and technology, domains he has declared as crucial to America’s future.
Biden has charged this team with recommending strategies and actions to ensure that the nation maximizes the benefits of science and technology for America’s welfare in the 21st century, including addressing health needs, climate change, national security, and economic prosperity.
MIT President L. Rafael Reif said. “...Given her leadership of immensely complex NASA missions and her deep engagement with the leading edge of dozens of scientific domains as MIT’s vice president for research, it is difficult to imagine someone more qualified to co-chair PCAST than Maria Zuber. This is a banner day for science, and for the nation.”
Zuber, the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, will continue to serve as the Institute’s vice president for research, a position she has held since 2013.
The daughter of a Pennsylvania state trooper and the granddaughter of coal miners, Maria T. Zuber, 62, has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1995 and MIT’s vice president for research since 2013. She has served since 2012 on the 24-member National Science Board, the governing body of the National Science Foundation, serving as NSB chair from 2016 to 2019.
Zuber’s own research bridges planetary geophysics and the technology of space-based laser and radio systems. She was the first woman to lead a NASA spacecraft mission, serving as principal investigator of the space agency’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, an effort launched in 2008 to map the moon’s gravitational field to answer fundamental questions about the moon’s evolution and internal composition. In all, Zuber has held leadership roles associated with scientific experiments or instrumentation on nine NASA missions since 1990.
As MIT’s vice president for research, Zuber is responsible for research administration and policy. She oversees more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers, including the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, the Plasma Science and Fusion Center, the Research Laboratory of Electronics, the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), and the Haystack Observatory. She is also responsible for MIT’s research integrity and compliance, and plays a central role in research relationships with the federal government.
“Many of the most pressing challenges facing the nation and the world will require breakthroughs in science and technology,” Zuber says. “An essential element of any solution must be rebuilding trust in science, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with President-elect Biden and his team to drive positive change.”
Zuber holds a BA in astronomy and geology from the University of Pennsylvania, awarded in 1980, and an ScM and PhD in geophysics from Brown University, awarded in 1983 and 1986, respectively. She has received awards and honors including MIT’s Killian Faculty Achievement Award; the American Geophysical Union’s Harry H. Hess Medal; and numerous NASA awards, including the Distinguished Public Service Medal and the Outstanding Public Leadership Medal. She was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2004.