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Research Funding

Sethuraman Panchanathan tapped to lead US National Science Foundation

Engineer and computer scientist would take over helm of funding agency from France Córdova

by Cheryl Hogue
December 31, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 1

Photo shows Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan.
Credit: Arizona State University
Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan

Arizona State University executive vice president and chief research and innovation officer Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan is the choice of US president Donald J. Trump to head the National Science Foundation.

If confirmed by the Senate, Panchanathan would replace current NSF director France Córdova, whose 5-year term ends in March.

“I am heartened at the idea of Panch as my successor,” Córdova says in a statement. She says Panchanathan “has the character and knowledge that make him an ideal fit for the job.”

Panchanathan has been a member of the US National Science Board, which oversees the NSF, since 2014. Córdova says Panchanathan “has been a bold, energizing presence on the National Science Board and he was a leader in every sense of the word in the research community prior to that.”

“Dr. Panchanathan’s expertise and dedication will ensure that NSF continues to be a driving force for U.S. discovery, innovation, and technological growth,” Michael Kratsios, chief technology officer of the US, says in a White House statement.

A specialist in electrical engineering and informatics, Panchanathan is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Society of Optical Engineering. He is senior adviser for science and technology to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. He served on the Commerce Department’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship for two years.

In October, Panchanathan testified at a Senate hearing on research and innovation in the US. “How we, as a country, act and advance our science and technology aspirations will have a direct impact on our economic and national security,” he told a panel of the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) applauded Panchanathan’s nomination. Panchanathan has chaired the APLU’s Council on Research for the past two years.

“Dr. Panchanathan has been a superb and creative leader at Arizona State University,” APLU president Peter McPherson says in a statement.



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