Lewis, Berkowitz begin NSF leadership appointments

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Lewis, Berkowitz begin NSF leadership appointments

Consumers are asking questions about the food-production system they've never asked before, and agriculture needs to do a better job of answering those questions, panelists at a UNL lecture on Nov. 6 agreed.

UNL faculty Jim Lewis and David Berkowitz will contribute their respective expertise to advancing U.S. efforts in education and chemistry by assuming leadership positions with the National Science Foundation.

Lewis, an Aaron Douglas Professor of mathematics, will become deputy assistant director of the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources beginning Jan. 26. He has accepted an initial one-year appointment.

His responsibilities will include shaping strategy, policy and funding priorities related to education and human resources. Lewis will also represent the directorate while interacting with constituencies that include the U.S. Congress and the White House, along with other federal agencies and research funding sources. He will report to the assistant director of NSF education and human resources, who in turn reports to the NSF director.

The Directorate for Education and Human Resources, one of seven within the foundation, aims to ensure the nation’s leadership in discovery and innovation through a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It is a privilege to have an opportunity to make an impact on mathematics and science education at the national level,” Lewis said. “I look forward to working with the NSF. At the same time, I will miss the day-to-day interaction with my colleagues at UNL and the dedicated staff in the Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education. Their support has been invaluable.”

Lewis’ directorship of the center will transition to Judy Walker, chair of the Department of Mathematics, and Wendy Smith, assistant director of the center.

Berkowitz, a Willa Cather Professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry, will serve as interim director of the NSF Division of Chemistry from February through August.

As head of the division, Berkowitz will oversee a team that manages more than 10 research programs and coordinates all NSF-funded chemistry research. He will further collaborate with leadership from four other divisions that collectively constitute the Directorate of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, funding frontline science and initiatives more broadly aimed at educating the next generation of chemists.

The Division of Chemistry supports research and education in the chemical sciences by investing toward a globally engaged chemistry workforce that reflects U.S. diversity. Berkowitz previously held appointments with the division’s Chemistry of Life Processes and Chemical Synthesis programs.

“I am honored to have this opportunity to serve the nation and the National Science Foundation, the purest science agency that we have,” Berkowitz said. “My experience as an NSF-funded researcher at the chemistry-biology interface here in Nebraska, and in program leadership at NSF, serves as good preparation for this appointment.”

Berkowitz will manage his research group at UNL through the Independent Research/Development program associated with his appointment. Professor Jody Redepenning has become acting chair of UNL’s Department of Chemistry in Berkowitz’s stead.

Established by Congress in 1950 and headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, the National Science Foundation funds nearly one-quarter of all federally supported basic research conducted at U.S. colleges and universities.

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