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Obama nominates astrophysicist to lead NSF

Under Cordova's presidency, Purdue University attracted record levels of research funding.

Mark Simons, Purdue University

For more on Córdova’s nomination, see our expanded news story:

Astrophysicist France Anne Córdova has been tapped to head the US National Science Foundation (NSF), which has been run by an acting director since March 2013. President Barack Obama announced the pick on 31 July. If confirmed, Córdova would fill the gap left by Subra Suresh, who announced his resignation in February, after serving less than half of his six-year term leading the US$7 billion agency.

Córdova, who earned her doctorate from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, served as president of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, from 2007 to 2012. In 2010, she oversaw the creation of the Colombia-Purdue Institute for Scientific Research, which aims to foster scientific collaboration between the Colombia and the United States.

Earlier in her career, Córdova worked in the Earth and Space Sciences Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and went on to lead the department of astronomy and astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. In September 1993, Córdova was named NASA’s first female chief scientist.

“She’s a very accomplished academic researcher,” says Umar Mohideen, chairman of the physics and astronomy department at the University of California, Riverside, where Córdova served as chancellor from 2002-2007. “She’s managed academia, and those are qualities that would make her a good choice.”

Córdova now begins the sometimes lengthy process of winning confirmation from the  US Senate — normally an easy process for candidates to lead NSF. But her nomination comes at a time when Republican lawmakers in the Senate have used procedural tactics to slow consideration of Obama administration picks. EPA chief Gina McCarthy was confirmed on 18 July after a historic delay caused by political infighting, and  Obama has struggled to fill several other top science positions.


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