Who is Dr Arati Prabhakar, US Prez Joe Biden's science advisor nominee?

Who is Dr Arati Prabhakar, US Prez Joe Biden's science advisor nominee?
Arati Prabhakar. Photo: Bloomberg

US President Joe Biden nominated Indian-American scientist Dr Arati Prabhakar, to head the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) as Director. The Indian-American community hailed the decision by President Biden as a 'historic event'.

“Dr Prabhakar is a brilliant and highly-respected engineer and applied physicist and will lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy to leverage science, technology, and innovation to expand our possibilities, solve our toughest challenges, and make the impossible possible,” said US President Joe Biden.

Dr Prabhakar, 63, is an engineer and applied physicist with extensive management and leadership credentials. Prabhakar was three when her family immigrated to the United States from Delhi. They first moved to Chicago and then settled in Lubbock, Texas, when she was 10. She received an electrical engineering degree from Texas Tech University in 1979.

Dr Prabhakar's achievement stands out as she would become the first woman, immigrant, or person of colour to head the OSTP. She will also be the latest highly qualified professional from the Indian-American community to be named for a key position in the Biden administration.

She has had a high-profile career till now having led two federal research and development agencies and worked with startups, large companies, universities, government labs, and nonprofits across various sectors to create powerful new solutions for critical challenges.

She has been instrumental in developing new technologies and doing groundbreaking work in various fields. Her appointment as the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from 2012 to 2017 during President Barack Obama's tenure is a testament to her vision in the technology field.

At DARPA, she oversaw teams that created a prototype for a system to detect nuclear and radiological materials before a terrorist can build a bomb, developed tools to find human trafficking networks in the deep and dark web, and that enabled complex military systems to work together even when they were not originally designed to do so, the White House said.

Earlier in her career, Former President Bill Clinton appointed her as the head of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 1993 when she was only 34, becoming the first woman to hold that office.

She earned her Master of Science in electrical engineering from the renowned California Institute of Technology (CalTech) in 1980. She was also the first woman to earn a PhD in applied physics from CalTech.

Dr Prabhakar is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and a National Academy of Engineering member. She was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

Her legislative career started as a Congressional Fellow at the Office of Technology Assessment in 1984. Prabhakar spent 15 years in Silicon Valley between her Federal leadership roles, helping bring R&D to deployment as a company executive and venture capitalist.

Once confirmed to lead OSTP, she would also be Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. In this capacity, she will be Joe Biden's Chief Advisor for Science and Technology, a co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and a member of his Cabinet.

She would also be the third Asian American, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific islander included in Joe Biden's cabinet with Kamala Harris and Katherine Tai being the other two.

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