Senate confirms NIST leader

J. Stoughton/NIST

Laurie Locascio, a bioengineering professor and NIST alum, was nominated by President Biden back in 2021.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Laurie Locascio, a former bioengineering professor at the University of Maryland, to helm the National Institute of Standards and Technology on Thursday.

Following Locascio’s nomination by President Joe Biden back in 2021, the Senate voted in her favor during an April 8 voice vote. Her nomination was first approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation before being sent to the floor for a final vote.

Locascio will serve as the undersecretary for standards and technology at the Department of Commerce and the director of NIST, replacing acting Undersecretary Dr. James Olthoff. In addition to being a professor, she currently serves as the vice president for research at the University of Maryland.

NIST was created over a century ago and is one of the oldest physical laboratories in the U.S. It currently serves to advance measurement science, standards and technology across the government and U.S. industry.

Congressional leadership voiced support for Locascio’s confirmation on Friday.

“I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Dr. Laurie Locascio on her long-awaited confirmation to lead NIST, one of our nation’s premier science agencies,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas. “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s science and innovation leadership. As the House and Senate begin conference negotiations on a bipartisan innovation package, it is essential that all of the agencies given important new authorities in the legislation have their leadership fully in place and ready to hit the ground running.”

This appointment won’t be Locascio’s first role with NIST. According to her biography page, she began her career with the agency first as a research biomedical engineer, working her way into senior leadership positions, including acting principal deputy director and associate director for Laboratory Programs.

"It has been an incredible privilege to serve as the vice president for research for both the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore,” Locascio said back in 2021 following her nomination. “I am tremendously honored to be nominated by President Biden for this important position and, should I receive confirmation from the Senate, I am confident that the university will continue on its trajectory as one of the world’s great research institutions.”