Washington, DC: President Joe Biden has announced his intent to nominate Indian-American scientist Dr Arati Prabhakar to serve as the director of the office of science and technology policy (OSTP), and once confirmed to this position, also as the assistant to the president for science and technology. In this capacity, Dr Prabhakar will be the president’s chief advisor for science and technology, a co-chair of the president’s council of advisors on science and technology and a member of the president’s Cabinet.
“Dr Prabhakar is a brilliant and highly respected engineer and applied physicist and will lead the office of science and technology policy to leverage science, technology, and innovation to expand our possibilities, solve our toughest challenges, and make the impossible possible,” President Biden said in a statement announcing the nomination. “I share Dr Prabhakar’s belief that America has the most powerful innovation machine the world has ever seen. As the Senate considers her nomination, I am grateful that Dr Alondra Nelson will continue to lead OSTP and Dr Francis Collins will continue to serve as my acting science advisor.”
Welcoming Dr Prabhakar’s nomination to the key role, Research!America, an influential non-profit medical and health research advocacy alliance, said that the US will be well served by her deep understanding of the pivotal role the federal government can play to advance innovation in science and technology.
Prabhakar has been unanimously confirmed by the US Senate earlier, to lead the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and was the first woman to hold that role. She later served as the director of the defense advanced research projects agency (DARPA), the birthplace of breakthrough technologies like stealth aircraft and the internet, the White House statement said.
If confirmed to lead the OSTP, Prabhakar would become the third Asian-American, native Hawaiian, or Pacific islander to serve in President Biden’s Cabinet, joining Vice President Kamala Harris and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai. The nomination is historic, with Prabhakar being the first woman, immigrant or person of color nominated to serve as Senate-confirmed director of the OSTP.
Prabhakar’s family immigrated from India to the United States when she was three years old – first to Chicago and then settling down in Lubbock, Texas, where she went on to get her electrical engineering degree from Texas Tech University. She was the first woman to earn a PhD in applied physics from the California Institute of Technology, where she also earned an MS in electrical engineering. She started her career in the legislative branch as a Congressional fellow at the office of technology assessment.