President Biden is expected to nominate Dr. Arati Prabhakar, an applied physicist, to serve as presidential science adviser and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
Prabhakar previously served as Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from 2012 to 2017, where she launched the biotechnology office that led the early work on RNA vaccines. After her stint at DARPA, she founded Acuate, a nonprofit, philanthropic organization focused on “solutions R&D” in areas such as climate change and public health. Prabhakar was the first woman to head the National Institutes of Standards and Technology from 1993 to 1997. She also spent 15 years in Silicon Valley, including as a venture capitalist.
Dr. Prabhakar received her Doctor of Philosophy in applied physics and Master of Science in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology. She received her Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Texas Tech University.
Once officially nominated, Dr. Prabhakar can take over as science adviser immediately but will require Senate confirmation—a process that can take several months—before stepping into the role of OSTP Director. If approved by the Senate, she would become the first woman and first person of color to lead the OSTP. She would have a key role to play in a number of science policy priorities for the Biden Administration, including sustaining U.S. global competitiveness, ensuring academic research security, and advancing equity in science.
If confirmed, Prabhakar would take over the OSTP after a tumultuous few months for the office. Biden’s previous science adviser, Dr. Eric Lander, resigned in February after a White House investigation concluded that he had mistreated and bullied his subordinates. After Lander stepped down, former Director of the National Institutes of Health Dr. Francis Collins took over as interim science adviser, while Deputy Director for Science and Society for OSTP Dr. Alondra Nelson stepped in as Acting OSTP Director. Early in his term, Biden elevated the role of science adviser to a Cabinet-level position. However, under the temporary arrangement, neither Collins nor Nelson have received a Cabinet designation.
Stay current on the latest science policy news. Subscribe to our bi-weekly AIBS Public Policy Report.