November 2010 Issue • Volume 38 • Issue 8

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Science Policy

Senate confirms MIT Professor Subra Suresh as NSF Director


Subra Suresh

The U.S. Senate recently confirmed Subra Suresh for a six-year term as Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). President Obama nominated him for the post on June 8, and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren officially swore him in on October 18. Before joining NSF, Suresh, 54, served as dean of the engineering school and as Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A mechanical engineer who later became interested in materials science and biology, Suresh has done pioneering work studying the biomechanics of blood cells under the influence of diseases such as malaria. From 2000 to 2006, he served as the head of the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Suresh joined MIT in 1993 as the R.P. Simmons Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and held joint faculty appointments in the departments of mechanical engineering and biological engineering, as well as the division of health sciences and technology. He holds a master’s degree from Iowa State University and earned his ScD from MIT in 1981. Suresh replaces Arden L. Bement, Jr., who led the agency from 2004 until he resigned in May 2010. Sociologist Cora Marrett served as Acting Director following Bement’s departure. President Obama has since nominated Marrett to serve as NSF’s Deputy Director.

United States must involve minorities in science
to maintain competitive edge


National efforts to strengthen U.S. science and engineering must include all Americans, especially underrepresented minorities, who are the fastest growing groups of the U.S. population, but the most underrepresented in science and technology careers, says a new report from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. According to the report, minority participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at all levels should be an urgent national priority. The congressionally mandated report, Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads, offers a comprehensive roadmap for increasing involvement of underrepresented minorities—including African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans—and improving the quality of their education. To reach a national target that 10 percent of all 24-year-olds hold an undergraduate degree in science or engineering disciplines, the number of minority college-educated Americans in science and engineering occupations would need to quadruple or even quintuple. The report’s recommendations build upon Rising Above the Gathering Storm, a landmark 2005 publication from the Academies that urged improvements in STEM education at all levels as part of a larger plan to sustain U.S. scientific and technological leadership. For more information, see

NIH seeks to break new ground in reducing health disparities

In August, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched a multidisciplinary network of experts that will explore new approaches to understanding the origins of health disparities among population groups. The NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) is contracting with the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health to establish the Network on Inequality, Complexity, and Health (NICH). Using state-of-the-science conceptual and computational models, the network’s goal is to identify important areas where interventions or policy changes could have the greatest impact in eliminating health disparities. Comprised of scientists with expertise across disciplines including economics, biology, ecology, computer science, education, sociology, mathematics and epidemiology, NICH will be the first network to apply systems science approaches to the study of health inequities. For more information on NICH, visit
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