Sethuraman Panchanathan portrait
Sethuraman Panchanathan

The Honorable Sethuraman Panchanathan is a computer scientist and engineer who serves as the 15th director of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Panchanathan was nominated to this position by the President of the United States in 2019, and then unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 18, 2020. NSF is a $9 billion independent federal agency and the only government agency charged with advancing all fields of scientific discovery, technological innovation and STEM education.

Panchanathan is a leader in science, engineering and education with more than three decades of experience. He has enjoyed a distinguished career in both higher education and government, where he has designed and built knowledge enterprises that advance research innovation, strategic partnerships, entrepreneurship, global development and economic growth.

As director, Panchanathan serves as a leader on several key interagency councils and committees, including as co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship and as a member of the White House CHIPS Implementation Steering Council and the White House Gender Policy Council. He is also chair of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee and co-vice chair of the Council for Inclusive Innovation.

Panchanathan previously served as  executive vice-president of the Arizona State University (ASU) Knowledge Enterprise, where he was also chief research and innovation officer. He was also the founder and director of the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing at ASU. Under his leadership, ASU increased research performance fivefold, earning recognition as the fastest growing and most innovative research university in the U.S.

Prior to joining NSF, Panchanathan was appointed by the President to serve on the National Science Board, where he chaired the Committee on Strategy and was a member of the External Engagement and National Science and Engineering Policy committees. Additionally, he chaired the Council on Research of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and co-chaired the Extreme Innovation Taskforce of the Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils. Arizona’s governor appointed Panchanathan as senior advisor for science and technology in 2018. He has served as editor-in-chief of the IEEEMultimedia Magazine and editor and associate editor of several international journals.

Panchanathan’s scientific contributions have advanced the areas of human-centered multimedia computing, haptic user interfaces and ubiquitous computing technologies for enhancing the quality of life for individuals with different abilities. He has also contributed to the fields of machine learning for multimedia applications and of media processor design. He has published close to 500 articles in refereed journals and conference proceedings, and has mentored more than 150 graduate students, postdocs, research engineers and research scientists, many who now occupy leading positions in academia and industry.

Panchanathan is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, where he also served as vice president for strategic initiatives. He is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, the Association for Computing Machinery, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Society of Optical Engineering.