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Coal miner’s granddaughter on Biden’s council

“I want to help people and advance our country.”

These are the words spoken by Maria Zuber on Saturday after being selected as a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Dr. Zuber, a former resident of Summit Hill, a 1976 graduate of Panther Valley High School, and a professor of geophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has worked for three prior administrations before she was chosen for this position.

Biden has declared that his team of top advisors on science domain is “crucial to America’s future.” The Council will be recommending implemental strategies on the topics of climate change, national security and economic prosperity.

Maria’s father, Joseph Zuber, a retired Pennsylvania State Police officer, said his daughter has had “science in her blood since she was born” that was brought to practical application after her grandfather had built her a telescope.

“When Maria was 3 or 4 years old, she’d sit on the front porch and look up at the stars,” Joseph Zuber said. During her press conference on Saturday, his daughter added, “I couldn’t deal with not knowing what’s up there.”

Zuber said his daughter would watch anything that was space-related on TV and had an early interest in becoming an astronaut. She remains fascinated with robotic space exploration and has been a leader in this technology at MIT for several years.

Looking at the stars, exploring space, and science in general have much to do with helping people live healthy and prosperous lives here on earth, according to Maria Zuber. She believes trust in science is critical during the “rage” of the pandemic and far beyond.

“We seek a zero carbon energy system for cleaner air that will help us live healthier lives and provide good-paying jobs,” she said.

Both of her grandfathers were coal miners and died from black lung disease, and when the mines shut down, jobs left the anthracite regions of Northeast Pennsylvania.

“The economy has not come back,” she said.

Zuber pledges that the president’s science council will seek to create new and clean industries to help restore these economically stressed regions and other areas across the country that have been deprived of good employment opportunities.

“Science and scientists are part of the solution,” she said.

Zuber’s selection to the council has come with great praise.

MIT President L. Rafael Reif said, “Given her leadership of immensely complex NASA mission engagements … this is a banner day for our nation.”

She has also been a member of the National Science Board, MIT’s vice president of research and has been instrumental in designing maps of the moon’s evolution and internal composition.

As the mother of two children and a current resident of a suburb of Boston, Zuber still finds the time to visit her father and her mother, Delores, in Summit Hill, where her parents have raised five children, all graduates of Panther Valley.

“Whatever work Maria does, it’s to help the American people,” said her father, who expressed great pride in his daughter’s achievements. “She certainly has many challenges to face now.”

Maria Zuber says she loves “living a life of discovery,” that all began one clear night when as a young child she was sitting on the front porch of her house in Summit Hill and simply looked up at the stars.

Maria Zuber, Summit Hill native, has been named co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. MIT PHOTO