Subra Suresh nominated to lead National Science Foundation

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President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that he intends to nominate Subra Suresh ScD ’81, Dean of MIT’s School of Engineering, to be the next director of the National Science Foundation. If confirmed by the Senate, Dean Suresh will serve as director for the next six years.
Elijah Mena—The Tech

Subra Suresh nominated to lead National Science Foundation

President Barack Obama announced on June 3 that he plans to nominate MIT School of Engineering dean, Subra Suresh ScD ’81, to act as the next director of the National Science Foundation.

With an annual budget of roughly seven billion dollars, the National Science Foundation is a federal government agency which serves to promote “opportunities for research and education funding in all areas of science and engineering,” according to their website.

Assuming the appointment is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Suresh will serve a six-year term. He will replace the current director, Arden Berment, who was scheduled to leave the foundation on June 1.

Also appointing the Department of State’s Ambassador to the Republic of Lebanon and the Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic in his announcement, “I am proud that such experienced and committed individuals have agreed to take on these important roles in my administration. I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years,” Obama said.

As director of the National Science Foundation, Suresh will oversee the foundation’s staff and management, which directs “program creation and administration, merit review, planning, budget and day-to-day operations,” according to the NSF website.

The foundation includes a workforce of nearly 1700 employees, who are based primarily at the foundation’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. The staff includes workers who review research proposals, primarily from academic institutions like MIT, which are awarded through a merit-based process. The foundation also includes the Office of the Inspector General, which examines the NSF’s work and reports to the National Science Board and Congress.

Since July of 2007, Suresh has served as the dean of the School of Engineering and has held joint faculty appointments in four MIT departments. Under his leadership, the department has most notably seen a spike in the diversity of new faculty appointments.

According to the MIT news office, “approximately 45 new faculty members have joined [the School of Engineering] since he became dean, and in 2009, for the first time in its history, the school hired more new women faculty than men.”

In contrast to previous National Science Foundation directors who were no longer active scientists, Suresh maintains an active lab, which focuses on largely on the nanomachanics of biomaterials.

According to the News Office, Suresh has authored over 220 research articles in international journals, acted as a coinventor on over 12 U.S. and international patents, and has coedited five books, including Fatigue of Materials and Thin Film Materials — a prominent textbook used among materials science and engineering — during his research career.

Over 100 students and research scientists have trained in his research group, which has focused on such topics as the mechanobiology of malaria in infected red blood cells. He has received such honors for his work as the 2007 European Materials Medal and the 2006 Acta Materialia Gold Medal. Additionally, the Technology Review magazine named Suresh’s work on nanobiomechanics as one of the top 10 emerging technologies that “will have a significant impact on business, medicine or culture” in 2006.

Among his other academic appointments, Suresh has been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Indian National Academy of Engineering, the German National Academy of Sciences, the Indian Academy of Sciences, and the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences.

Suresh earned his bachelor of technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, in 1977. He received his MS from Iowa State University in 1979, his ScD from MIT in 1981, and completed postdoctoral work from 1981 to 1983 at the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Suresh joined Brown University as an assistant professor of engineering in December 1983 and was promoted to full professor in July 1989. In 1993, Suresh joined MIT as the R. P. Simmons Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

More on Obama’s announcement regarding Suresh can be found online at: