Birgeneau wins prestigious National Science Board award

UC Berkeley Chancellor Emeritus Robert Birgeneau, an internationally distinguished physicist and leader in the academic community, will head to Washington, D.C., next month where he will be honored with the National Science Board’s 2016 Vannevar Bush Award.

Birgeneau, who served as Berkeley’s ninth chancellor from 2004 to 2013, holds the Arnold and Barbara Silverman Distinguished Chair in the Department of Physics, Materials Science and Engineering and Public Policy. He was recognized for his extraordinary public service, scientific leadership and relentless support for equity and inclusion in higher education.

Robert Birgeneau

Robert Birgeneau (UC Berkeley photo by John Blaustein)

“It is a great honor to be a recipient of the 2016 Vannevar Bush Award,” Birgeneau said. “Berkeley’s two previous Bush awardees, Glenn Seaborg and Charlie Townes, also received the Nobel prize. This means that I will have to work even harder on my research to uphold Berkeley’s high standards for the Vannevar Bush Award.”

Before becoming the chancellor at Berkeley, Birgeneau served four years as president of the University of Toronto. He previously was dean of the School of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he spent 25 years on the faculty. He is a fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of London, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and other scholarly societies.

As chancellor, Birgeneau increased UC Berkeley’s position as a global leader in research, education and public service, launched a successful $3 billion capital campaign, fostered multidisciplinary connections on campus to best address world problems, put in place a groundbreaking financial aid plan for middle-income families, advocated for the right to higher education for undocumented students and oversaw the creation of a 10-year plan to make the campus a national model for equity and inclusion.

“Robert Birgeneau has made exceptional contributions to the welfare of the nation and humanity by advancing equity and inclusion at research institutions. His exemplary, lifelong dedication to public service and leadership equals his scientific achievement as a leading condensed-matter experimental physicist,” said Vint Cerf, chair of the NSB’s Committee on Honorary Awards. “His supreme leadership and scientific achievements make Dr. Birgeneau most worthy of the prestigious Vannevar Bush Award.”

The National Science Board will present Birgeneau with the award on May 5, during the NSF/NSB annual awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. NSB will also recognize its Public Service Award recipient, Sea Education Association/SEA Semester, and NSF will honor this year’s Waterman Award recipient, an outstanding scientist aged 35 or younger.

All three 2016 awardees will give presentations on May 5, during the NSB’s meeting. The presentations will be open to the public at NSF in Arlington, Virginia, and also viewable via a live webcast. Presentation times, the webcast link, and other details will be posted on NSB’s website and social media.

Read more about the award on the NSB’s website.