Indian American sworn in as America’s top science official

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : IIT Madras alumnus, Subra Suresh, has been sworn in as the director of America’s National Science Foundation (NSF), the top US science body with a $7.4 billion budget to support scientific institutions.

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“We are very grateful to have Subra taking this new task,” said President Barack Obama at the White House Science Fair Monday after Suresh was sworn in as the 13th NSF director by John Holdren, Obama’s science advisor.

“He has been at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and has been leading one of the top engineering programmes in the country, and for him now to be able to apply that to the National Science Foundation is just going to be outstanding,” he said. “So we’re very grateful for your service.”

Suresh, 54, was confirmed by the US Senate Sep 30, for a six-year term.

He has served as dean of the engineering school and as Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at MIT.

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, Suresh served as the head of the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He 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.

Suresh holds a bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras and a master’s degree from Iowa State University.

Suresh was nominated by President Obama to become the new NSF director June 8, in place of Arden L. Bement Jr, who led the agency from 2004 until he resigned in May this year.

NSF’s current budget is $6.9 billion. For 2011 it has requested $7.4 billion, an eight percent increase over 2010, in support of Obama’s goal of increasing the nation’s total public and private investment in research and development to at least 3 percent of the gross domestic product.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])