France Córdova, Former President of Purdue U., Is Named to Lead NSF

July 31, 2013

President Obama announced on Wednesday his nomination of France A. Córdova, a former president of Purdue University, to serve as the new director of the National Science Foundation.

Ms. Córdova, an astrophysicist, is now chair of the Smithsonian Regents, the governing board of the Smithsonian Institution. She was appointed to that post in January, six months after ending a five-year term as Purdue's president as she neared the mandatory retirement age of 65. Ms. Córdova turns 66 on Monday.

If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Córdova would replace Cora B. Marrett, an NSF career official who has been serving as the agency's acting director since March, when Subra Suresh left to become president of Carnegie Mellon University.

The NSF, which has an annual budget of about $7-billion, finances about 20 percent of all federally supported basic research at American universities.

Ms. Córdova's nomination extends a series of top-level connections between the NSF and Purdue, which has been regularly ranked in the top 50 universities nationwide in total federal spending on research and development.

Arden L. Bement Jr. was a professor of nuclear engineering at Purdue before becoming the science agency's director, in 2004. He stepped down in 2010 to return to the university and lead its new Global Policy Research Institute. And Steven C. Beering, who led the NSF's governing board from 2006 to 2010, served as Purdue's president from 1983 to 2000.

Ms. Córdova currently serves on the National Science Board. A member since 2008, she leads its Committee on Strategy and Budget. One of 12 children of a Mexican father and an Irish-American mother, she was raised in California and completed a bachelor's degree in English at Stanford University before earning a doctorate in physics from the California Institute of Technology.