Dr. Arati Prabhakar voted by the US Senate as OSTP, chief advisor to president


An Indian American Dr. Arati Prabhakar has been voted by the US Senate to the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) post. Dr. Prabhakar will now be a member of the cabinet, the president’s chief advisor for science and technology, and a co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The US Senate voted 56-40 in favor of Dr. Prabhakar, the first woman, immigrant, and person of color to hold the OSTP post. Considered a veteran of politics in Washington, the applied physicist was born in India and raised in Texas. Her family came to Lubbock in Texas when she was three. After earning her degree in electrical engineering, she became the first woman to get a Ph.D. in applied physics from the California Institute of Technology.

Dr. Alondra Nelson, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director for Science and Society, who is performing the duties of Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issued the following statement on the US Senate’s confirmation of Dr. Prabhakar as OSTP Director and Chief Advisor to the President for Science and Technology.

“The historic bipartisan confirmation of Dr. Prabhakar is a testament to her sterling track record of leadership and innovation stewardship, as well as her extensive expertise in science and technology policy. We are thrilled to welcome her to OSTP and begin a bright new chapter,” said Dr. Nelson.

Dr. Prabhakar was the first woman to lead the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). “Today, she again makes history as the first woman and person of color confirmed by the Senate to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy,” Dr. Nelson added.

Over the course of her career, Dr. Prabhakar’s leadership has propelled solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing American society. At the helm of NIST and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), she demonstrated a rare ability to work across silos and sectors to forge consensus and deliver important accomplishments.

“As we move forward with our agenda of transformative investments in scientific research and development, an equitable STEM ecosystem, climate and energy solutions, competitiveness, and technological and economic security as a result of the Biden-Harris Administration’s landmark legislative achievements, we are fortunate to now benefit from her deep experience,” said Dr. Nelson.

“Dr. Prabhakar will ably continue our work of maximizing the benefits of science and technology to advance health, prosperity, security, environmental quality, and justice for all Americans. And we are heartened to know that her priority will be people and that she will continue to foster and support the talented and dedicated staff here at OSTP,” she asserted. “Our entire team looks forward to serving under Dr. Prabhakar’s inspired leadership and continuing to deliver on the President’s vision for the American people.”

Her profile on the US Department of Defense website reveals that Dr. Prabhakar has spent her career investing in world-class engineers and scientists to create new technologies and businesses. Her first service to national security started in 1986 when she joined DARPA as a program manager. She initiated and managed programs in advanced semiconductor technology and flexible manufacturing, as well as demonstration projects to insert new semiconductor technologies into military systems. As the founding director of DARPA’s Microelectronics Technology Office, she led a team of program managers whose efforts spanned these areas, as well as optoelectronics, infrared imaging, and nanoelectronics.

In 1993, President William Clinton appointed Dr. Prabhakar director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where she led the 3,000-person organization in its work with companies across multiple industries.

Dr. Prabhakar moved to Silicon Valley in 1997, first as chief technology officer and senior vice president at Raychem, and later vice president and then president of Interval Research. From 2001 to 2011, she was a partner with U.S. Venture Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm. Dr. Prabhakar identified and served as a director for startup companies with the promise of significant growth. She worked with entrepreneurs in energy and efficiency technologies, components for consumer electronics, and semiconductor process and design technology.

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. She began her career as a Congressional Fellow at the Office of Technology Assessment.

Dr. Prabhakar has served in recent years on the National Academies’ Science Technology and Economic Policy Board, the College of Engineering Advisory Board at the University of California, Berkeley, and the red team of DARPA’s Defense Sciences Research Council. In addition, she chaired the Efficiency and Renewables Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Energy. Dr. Prabhakar is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a Texas Tech Distinguished Engineer, and a Caltech Distinguished Alumna.

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