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Prabhakar chosen as OSTP director and White House science advisor

If confirmed, the former head of DARPA and NIST will be the first woman and person of color to lead the office

by Andrea Widener
June 23, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 23


Arati Prabhakar portrait photo in front of a US flag.
Credit: Department of Defense
Arati Prabhakar

The former director of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Arati Prabhakar, has been nominated to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

President Joe Biden announced Prabhakar’s nomination in a statement June 21. If confirmed by the Senate, she will also serve as Biden’s science adviser—a cabinet-level post—and codirector of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. She would be the first woman, first immigrant, and first person of color to serve as OSTP director.

Prabhakar would take on a role that is tasked with leveraging “science, technology, and innovation to expand our possibilities, solve our toughest challenges, and make the impossible possible,” Biden’s statement says. “I share Dr. Prabhakar’s belief that America has the most powerful innovation machine the world has ever seen.”

Prabhakar has significant government experience, having served as director of DARPA from 2012 to 2017 and the National Institute of Standards and Technology from 1993 to 1997. She has also worked in technology and venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. She most recently founded the nonprofit Actuate, which aims to use R&D to tackle societal challenges like climate change and prevention of chronic diseases. Prabhakar has a PhD in electrical engineering and applied physics from the California Institute of Technology.

“Her success at the highest levels of government research agencies and in the private sector also stands as an important example to millions of aspiring scientists from underrepresented backgrounds,” Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, says in a statement.

The previous OSTP director, Eric Lander, was forced to resign in February after allegations of harassment and bullying behavior surfaced. Until Prabhakar is confirmed, the OSTP will continue to be led by Acting Director Alondra Nelson, and former National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins will remain science adviser.



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