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President Obama announces intent to appoint Maria Zuber to National Science Board

MIT geophysicist nominated for 25-member governing board of the National Science Foundation.
Maria Zuber, the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and Planetary Science
Maria Zuber, the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and Planetary Science
Photo: Donna Coveney

President Barack Obama on Thursday announced his intent to appoint Maria T. Zuber, the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and Planetary Science at MIT, to a seat on the National Science Board. The 25-member panel serves as the governing board of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and as advisors to the president and Congress on policy matters related to science and engineering.

In nominating Zuber — along with Ruth David, president and CEO of Analytic Services, Inc. — for six-year terms on the National Science Board, Obama said, “I am confident that these outstanding individuals will greatly serve the American people in their new roles and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

Last month, MIT President L. Rafael Reif announced that Zuber, a member of the MIT faculty since 1995, will become the Institute’s next vice president for research. Zuber will assume that new post effective Jan. 16.

The National Science Board sets NSF policy within the framework of national policies established by the president and Congress. The Board identifies issues that are critical to NSF’s future, approves NSF’s strategic budget direction and its annual budget submission to the Office of Management and Budget, and approves major NSF programs and awards.

The Board also serves as an independent body of advisors to both the president and Congress on policy matters related to science, engineering, and education in both fields. Finally, the Board publishes the highly respected “Science and Engineering Indicators,” an annual report that analyzes federal spending and performance in research and in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, and makes global comparisons in these fields.

The National Science Board is apolitical, with members drawn from industry and academia and representing a variety of science and engineering disciplines. In his current capacity as director of the NSF, Subra Suresh, the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at MIT, serves as an ex officio member of the Board.

Zuber’s research bridges planetary geophysics and the technology of space-based laser and radio systems. Since 1990, she has held leadership roles associated with scientific experiments or instrumentation on nine NASA missions; at present, she remains involved with six of these missions. Since 2008, she has served as principal investigator of the space agency’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, an effort to map the moon’s gravitational field.

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