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Brookhaven’s Marburger Confirmed as Presidential Science Advisor

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John H. Marburger III
John H. Marburger III

The Senate has approved President George W. Bush's choice for presidential science advisor by voting on October 23 to confirm Dr. John H. Marburger III as Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Marburger, a physicist who had served as Director of the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory since 1998, said he felt "humility and immense pride" to be selected for the job and hailed the importance of science and technology to society.

"I approach this opportunity and profound responsibility with a mixture of humility and immense pride - humility in the wake of the distinguished American scientists who have gone before me, pride in this nation's unmatched scientific establishment," Marburger said in his statement to the US Senate. "Science and technology have long provided with us with increased security, better health, and greater economic opportunity, and will continue to do so for many generations to come."

Marburger, an APS Fellow, received his PhD in applied physics from Stanford University in 1967 and in the early 1970s was a professor of physics and electrical engineering at the University of Southern California, serving as chair of the physics department as well as dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. While there, he developed a theory for various laser phenomena and co-founded USC's Center for Laser Studies. His teaching activities included "Frontiers of Electronics," a series of educational programs on CBS television.

In 1980 he became president of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and during his tenure federally sponsored scientific research at the institution grew to exceed that of any other public university in the northeastern US. The University Hospital was opened and biological sciences became one of the university's major strengths. Marburger also oversaw the establishment of the Long Island Technology Incubator, and the acquisition of the Long Island house of artists Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. He returned to the faculty in 1994 to teach and conduct research in optical science.

Three years later, he became president of Brookhaven Science Associates, a partnership founded by Stony Brook and Battelle, a nonprofit applied science and technology organization. BSA was awarded the contract to manage and operate Brookhaven National Laboratory for the Department of Energy, and Marburger was appointed Director. During his tenure, Marburger has overseen an era of exciting scientific advances at BNL, including the launching of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), the world's largest particle accelerator for nuclear physics research, which produced its first experimental results earlier this year when Brookhaven scientists detected what may be the first truly significant deviation from the Standard Model of particle physics.

In addition, under Marburger's leadership the laboratory has expanded its Center for Imaging and Neuroscience, advancing its groundbreaking studies of how various diseases, aging and addictive drugs affect the brain. He has also expanded BNL's emphasis on technology transfer and collaboration with industrial partners, and has played a significant role in advancing environmental restoration at the lab.

Reaction to President Bush's choice of a science advisor has been positive from both Congress and the scientific community. During the confirmation hearings before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), who chairs the House Science Committee, professed himself "pleased" at the choice of Marburger for presidential science advisor, praising the physicist's managerial skills and natural leadership ability. "With his experiences with Brookhaven National Laboratories and SUNY Stony Brook, he is going to make an invaluable addition to the team and help us make the case for federal R & D science programs in the future," Boehlert said.

Rep. Felix Grucci (R-NY), who represents the Brookhaven district, said that Marburger had "restored the [local] community's trust" in BNL and "reaffirmed their faith" in the nation's science program, adding that Marburger "will be a tremendous asset to President Bush and our nation."

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette