The University of Chicago News Office
June 26, 2003 Press Contact: Steve Koppes
(773) 702-8366

Astrophysicist to head National Science Foundation’s arm that supports mathematics, physical sciences

The National Science Foundation has named the University of Chicago’s Michael Turner to a two-year term as assistant director for mathematical and physical sciences, effective Oct. 1. Turner will take a leave of absence from the University while working at the NSF in Washington, D.C.

Turner is the Bruce and Diana Rauner Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, where he has chaired the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics since 1997. He also has an appointment as a senior scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

“I believe there is a special opportunity to give the physical sciences a boost and realize some great opportunities for discovery, and I think I can make a difference,” Turner said. “NSF is in a unique position to articulate the importance of research in the physical sciences to the nation and to lead the effort to ensure that they are properly supported.”

David Oxtoby, Dean of the University of Chicago’s Physical Sciences Division, called Turner a world-class cosmologist who has been a leader in the physics and astronomy community over the last decade.

“Michael’s appointment to this important position at the National Science Foundation is particularly timely, since important decisions will be made over the next several years concerning the role of the federal government in the support of the physical sciences,” Oxtoby said. “This is of critical importance not only for this and other universities, but for the technological and scientific future of the entire country.”

Turner came to the University of Chicago as an Enrico Fermi Fellow in 1978. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of arts and Sciences and the American Physical Society. He is the author of several monographs and books, including The Early Universe, as well as more than 300 research papers.

Turner once served as scientific spokesman for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the most ambitious astronomical survey project ever undertaken. He also was a member of the National Research Council’s Astronomy & Astrophysics Decadal Survey Committee. The committee mapped out funding priorities for astrophysics research over the next decade.

Most recently he chaired the NRC’s Committee on the Physics of the Universe. The committee produced a report published earlier this year titled Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos: Eleven Scientific Questions for the New Century. The NSF, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy jointly sponsored the study to help the Bush Administration, as it took office, formulate science planning.

The NSF’s Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences has an annual budget of more than $1 billion dollars and supports research in physics, chemistry, astronomy, materials research, mathematics and many interdisciplinary fields. Turner succeeds Robert A. Eisenstein, who served as assistant director from 1997 to 2002. John B. Hunt continues to serve as acting assistant director until Turner’s arrival.
Last modified at 12:09 PM CST on Friday, June 27, 2003.

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