April 19, 2011

Obama chooses Zimmer for Science Board

U of C President Robert J. Zimmer will soon be putting his mathematics expertise back to work.

President Obama chose Zimmer to join the National Science Board (NSB), according to an announcement from the White House last Thursday.

Zimmer was nominated by University Trustee Emeritus Walter Massey, a former NSF director and current president of Morehouse College.

“The pursuit of scientific discovery and innovation is essential for our nation’s future, and the National Science Foundation plays a crucial role in forming a vision to carry American research forward,” Zimmer said in a statement to the U of C news office. “Having the opportunity to contribute to this valuable work is an honor for me, and moreover it reflects the University of Chicago’s position as a global leader in research.”

The University believes one of Zimmer’s greatest contributions will be a “more general science background” to balance what is currently an engineer-heavy Board, said University spokesman Steve Koppes.

Zimmer received an A.B. in mathematics from Brandeis University in 1968 and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1975. He became a faculty member at the U of C’s math department, writing extensively on topics in mathematical geometry before segueing into the administrative world.

He held directorial positions at both Argonne and Fermi laboratories before moving to general University administration. Until 2010, Zimmer also served on the President’s Committee of the National Medal of Science.

The 25 member NSB is recruited to make policy decisions for the National Science Foundation (NSF) while also serving as “an independent body of advisors to both the President and the Congress on policy matters related to science and engineering,” according to the Board’s website.

According to Koppes, the Board “helps set science policy at the federal level, not just for the NSF,” and an appointment to the board represents a significant achievement.