News Release 20-009

September 29, 2020

The U.S. National Science Foundation has selected Sean Jones to serve as head of the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

Jones has worked as an innovator in the field of materials science; an advocate for inspiring and training the next generation of researchers and skilled workers; and a leader at NSF, committed to institutional improvements that serve the science and engineering community as well as the public. He has served with NSF for more than a decade, starting as a program director in 2009 and most recently heading the MPS Directorate as acting assistant director.

“Sean Jones’s expertise and experience as a leader both in academia and industrial research are rich perspectives that we need as we advance this agency into the future,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said. “Sean has an excellent track record of fostering scientific discovery and the mission of NSF, and he brings the kind of enterprise focus that we need to get things done at speed and scale. Dr. Jones is the ideal person to lead this critical area of NSF.”

NSF’s Mathematical and Physical Sciences directorate comprises the agency’s divisions of Astronomical Sciences, Chemistry, Materials Research, Mathematical Sciences and Physics, as well as the Office of Multidisciplinary Activities. The directorate seeks to harness the collective efforts of the mathematical and physical sciences communities to address the most compelling scientific questions, educate the future advanced high-tech workforce and promote discoveries to meet the needs of the nation.

“This is an exciting time for mathematical and physical sciences, and I am honored to continue working with such an extraordinary community,” Jones said. “MPS advances some of the most compelling scientific questions that grow the U.S. economy, develops the industries of the future, enhances the nation’s global leadership in innovation, and ensures our national security.”

Jones’ leadership has been marked by a focus on identifying the boldest possible science to support, increasing partnerships between NSF and other agencies as well as the private sector and a commitment to inclusive access to opportunities in research education and employment.

Jones has also worked as assistant director for physical science and engineering at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Before his arrival at NSF, his experience includes running research and development teams at Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies and two startup companies, working on next generation optics and photonics. He served as professor of optical engineering and department chair at Norfolk State University and senior scientist at the University of Florida.

His appointment began Sept. 14, 2020.


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The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2020 budget of $8.3 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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