On an otherwise uneventful day, President Donald Trump yesterday announced his intention to nominate Dr. Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan as the next Director of the National Science Foundation, succeeding Dr. France Córdova, whose six-year term ends next year. Panchanathan is a computing researcher and the Executive Vice President of Arizona State University’s Knowledge Enterprise, Chief Research and Innovation officer, Director of the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing (CUbiC), and Foundation Chair in Computing and Informatics. Panchanathan is also a member of the National Science Board, and a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, AAAS, Canadian Academy of Engineering, IEEE, and the Society of Optical Engineering.
“Panch” is well-known and well-respected in the computing research community. If confirmed by the Senate, Panchanathan would join Erich Bloch as the only Directors in the Foundation’s history from the the computing community. Panchanathan will join Princeton’s Margaret Martonosi, recently announced as the new head of NSF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate effective February 1, 2020, leaving the computing research community well-represented in an agency so important to the field — NSF supports approximately 85 percent of all fundamental computing research performed at U.S. universities, nearly $1.4 billion annually.
The current NSF Director and head of the National Science Board both released statements after the President’s announcement:
Dr. Córdova issued the following statement:
“For five years, Dr. Sethuraman 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. I was delighted to learn that the White House named him as nominee to serve as the next director of the National Science Foundation. This position requires the ability to connect with all stakeholders in the U.S. science and engineering community, walking the fine line between serving and leading. Panch has the character and knowledge that make him an ideal fit for the job. As my own term draws to a close, I am heartened at the idea of Panch as my successor.”
National Science Board Chair Dr. Diane L. Souvaine issued the following statement:
“I’m delighted by the President’s nomination for NSF Director. It’s been a privilege to have worked with Dr. Panchanathan for the past five years, and I know he is drawn to public service for the right reasons — a passion for our country and how our discoveries and innovations can make the world a better place. His leadership at Arizona State University has been key to their growth and emergence as an innovator in higher education, especially in terms of partnerships and entrepreneurship. He is the best kind of disruptor, one who understands that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. In working together with the National Science Board, I have been impressed with his care for and understanding of the National Science Foundation’s unique mission. I saw the same qualities in our current Director, Dr. France Córdova, and they have underpinned her exceptional leadership.”