University of Delaware
Jayne Morrow, executive director of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), spoke May 2 at UD.

Science, tech goals

National Science and Technology Council executive director speaks at UD


10:47 a.m., May 7, 2014--The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) may not be as well known to most Americans as the National Security Council, but the NSTC also plays a key coordination role for the president on a broad range of pressing issues, from climate change to nanotechnology.

On Friday, May 2, NSTC Executive Director Jayne Morrow visited the University of Delaware to present a lecture on NSTC and to meet with several UD administrators and researchers. 

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“President Obama is committed to science and technology — he believes that science and technology will lead us out of a lot of challenges that we face,” Morrow said. 

The NSTC, a cabinet-level council, is officially chaired by President Barack Obama and in practice, by the assistant to the president for science and technology. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) provides the secretariat for the council. 

NSTC’s primary mission is to establish clear national goals for federal science and technology investments across the mission areas of the executive branch. 

“Part of the NSTC’s mission is to get the federal agencies to come together and say ‘this is what we are going to do,’” Morrow explained. “The council provides a major coordination function, working across federal agencies on numerous topics and provides subject matter expertise on science and technology to support the president and the president’s science adviser, Dr. John Holdren, upon request.” 

The NSTC’s work is organized under five committees: Environment, Natural Resources and Sustainability; Homeland and National Security; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education; Science; and Technology. Each committee oversees subcommittees and working groups.

According to Morrow, NSTC groups have been busy developing reports and five-year strategic plans on such topics as ocean and coastal mapping, neuroscience research, air quality, the Arctic research plan, cybersecurity, and the global change research program, among many others. 

During a recent communications internship, Sarah Tornetta, a UD senior with a double major in English and psychology, had the opportunity to work on the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

Morrow pointed out that some subcommittees, such as the U.S. Group on Earth Observations, operate at an international scale to integrate Earth observation systems globally, with common goals and standards in how data is collected, measured and shared. 

Additionally, Morrow underscored STEM education as an administration priority, including improving STEM instruction in K-12 classrooms, designing graduate education for tomorrow’s STEM workforce, better serving historically underrepresented groups, assessing how to better engage women in STEM careers, and setting future program directions. 

“A strong STEM workforce is key to American innovation and achieving our national goals,” Morrow said. 

Morrow received her doctorate in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Connecticut under the guidance of Domenico Grasso prior to his appointment as UD’s provost. She currently is on detail to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

As an environmental engineer at NIST, Morrow was honored with the 2011 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for pioneering research on the properties of microbial systems, in particular the characterization of bacteria-surface interactions and the fate and transport of microbial pathogens in environmental matrices, and for her commitment to preparing the next generation of young scientists through a summer undergraduate internship program at NIST.

Photos by Doug Baker

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