NSF Names Physical Sciences Head

A nuclear physicist has been promoted to lead the largest research directorate at the National Science Foundation. NSF announced today that Robert Eisenstein will become assistant NSF director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences effective on 8 September, 1 year after William Harris left to become head of Columbia University's Biosphere 2 facility in Arizona.

Eisenstein, 55, has spent the past 5 years leading NSF's physics division, where he managed large-scale projects such as the Laser Interferometer Gravity Wave Observatory, now under construction in Louisiana and Washington state, and began initiatives in biological physics and complex phenomena. Now, as directorate head, Eisenstein will have even bigger projects on his plate. Next month, NSF hopes to win approval from Congress for preliminary work on a $200 million telescope array proposed for a site in Chile, and NSF also hopes to provide significant support for the proposed detectors at Europe's planned Large Hadron Collider.

"My main job is to promote the best science, which increasingly is interdisciplinary and with strong links to education," says Eisenstein. He points to the directorate's $30 million Office of Multidisciplinary Activities as one mechanism but says it's too early to talk about any possible reshuffling of the directorate's $695 million budget.