11 November 2020

AAS Member to Serve on Biden-Harris NASA Review Team

Richard Fienberg

Richard Fienberg American Astronomical Society

Jedidah Isler (Dartmouth College)President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris have begun assembling 39 agency review teams to understand the operations of each federal agency and ensure a smooth transition to the Biden-Harris administration. Among the eight people named to the NASA review team is AAS member Jedidah C. Isler, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

As described on the Biden-Harris transition website, agency review teams "are composed of highly experienced and talented professionals with deep backgrounds in crucial policy areas across the federal government. The teams have been crafted to ensure they not only reflect the values and priorities of the incoming administration, but reflect the diversity of perspectives crucial for addressing America’s most urgent and complex challenges."

In 2014 Isler became the first African American woman to earn a PhD in astrophysics at Yale University. She describes her research focus as "understanding how Nature does particle acceleration," mainly through the study of active galactic nuclei. She was a member of the American Institute of Physics (AIP) Task Force to Elevate African American Representation in Undergraduate Physics & Astronomy (TEAM-UP), which presented its report and recommendations at the 235th AAS meeting in Honolulu in January 2020. She's also a Senior TED Fellow and a widely celebrated speaker and advocate for inclusive STEM education.

The leader of the Biden-Harris NASA review team is Ellen Stofan, director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, who served as NASA's chief scientist from 2013 to 2016 and is a former affiliate member of the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences.

Stofan, Isler, and the other members of the NASA review team named so far are volunteering for the transition in their personal capacities. Full-time paid members will be added once the General Services Administration releases funds to support the transition, and additional members will be detailed from other organizations.