Yesterday the President sent to the Senate the nomination of France Córdova to replace Subra Suresh as Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Suresh, now the President of Carnegie Mellon University, left his position in March, not even halfway through his six-year term.
Córdova, currently the Chairman of the Board of Regents for the Smithsonian Institution, is an astrophysicist, earning her Ph.D. from Cal Tech. Her early research career was at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Córdova currently has an experiment aboard a European Space Agency mission. She has significant experience as a university research administrator, starting in the University of California system and ending with service as Chancellor of the system’s Riverside campus and as President of Purdue University. As Córdova described in an interview on ScienceInsider, she’s in a good place professionally where she feels she can devote the necessary time and effort into the job.
It’s also not her first time with a government position. Córdova served as chief scientist for NASA during the early 1990s under then-Administrator Daniel Goldin. She also serves on the National Science Board. If (once) confirmed, she would shift to an ex officio position on the Board as Director.
The main challenge to her nomination is likely making sure the Senate gets around to it in a timely fashion. As the Obama Administration took its time to decide on Dr. Córdova’s nomination, I’m not optimistic that the Senate will consider her confirmation any time soon.