Physicist Nominated to Lead DOE’s Office of Science

Physicist Nominated to Lead DOE’s Office of Science

Source:| Liz Kruesi | August 13, 2015

US president Barack Obama has nominated physicist Cherry Murray for the role of director of the Office of Science in the Department of Energy (DOE). The Office of Science supports fundamental research in both the physical sciences and energy research. It also oversees 10 of the DOE’s 17 national laboratories. The nomination must now be confirmed by the US Senate.

Murray earned her bachelor’s degree and her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She then joined Bell Laboratories as a staff scientist. During her 27-year tenure at Bell, she prospered and became an executive who managed research and development. She has since held several leadership roles in industry, academia and the national laboratory system, with the most recent being as dean of Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. Murray has also served on the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, and is currently on the Congressional Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories.

The US Congress is in recess until after 7 September. Once it returns, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will review Murray’s nomination. If it passes the committee, it will then be brought to the full US Senate. The confirmation process is a long one, and if Murray is established as the director of the Office of Science, she will not expect to begin her new position until December or January. Murray told that she is “absolutely thrilled to be nominated and hopefully I will be confirmed. I am looking forward to a new experience”.

In the director role, Murray would have several priorities. “The office of science does a really good job getting community input for what is important,” says Murray, “and I would of course continue to do that if confirmed.” Another priority for her would be finding ways to increase collaboration between academia, industry and national laboratories. “I think it’s important for the nation. And, if confirmed, I actually think I can have some impact.”

The director role has been vacant for more than two years, although deputy-director Patricia M Dehmer has served as the acting director for the Office of Science. In November 2013 physicist Marc Kastner was nominated for the position. After the initial several-month-long vetting process, his nomination stalled due to the hearings occurring after US Congress changed in 2014. Kastner has since taken the reins of the newly formed Science Philanthropy Alliance, which aims to increase privately funded basic science research.