He’s gained a reputation as a savvy advocate for science funding; so it isn’t surprising to see mechanical engineer Arun Majumdar (pictured) nominated as the next Undersecretary of Energy at the US Department of Energy.
The pick is still subject to confirmation by the US Senate –far from guaranteed in this polarized electoral season
– but would fill a position vacated earlier this month when physicist Steve Koonin left to go to the Institute for Defense Analyses. It would also leave a vacancy at the top of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Energy (ARPA-E) that Majumdar has headed since 2009 and that is sorely in need of his advocacy talents. Along with the rest of the DOE, the program has yet to receive a fiscal year 2012 budget and much is up for grabs as a House bill passed in July allocated the agency only $100 million , compared with $250 million being considered by the Senate.
In a statement to Nature, DOE reaffirmed its commitment to ARPA-E, which specializes in funding high-risk high reward research. “DOE remains strongly supportive of the program and is grateful to Dr. Majumdar for his ongoing leadership,” said an agency spokesman.
Another potential pick for Undersecretary of Science could have been physicist Bill Brinkman, the current director of the Office of Science. Brinkman is an experienced science manager but has received mixed ratings from science lobbyists when it comes to his Washington advocacy.