John Holdren Ph.D.

  • Senior Advisor to the President
John Holdren
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Dr. Holdren was President Obama’s Chief Science and Technology Advisor and the Senate-confirmed Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) from 2009 to 2017, becoming the longest-serving Science Advisor to the President in the history of the position (dating back to World War II). His responsibilities in this capacity included advising the President on all science and technology issues bearing on the President’s agenda (including economic growth and job creation, biomedicine and public health, energy and climate change, the oceans and the Arctic, the Nation’s space program, and national and homeland security); coordinating R&D strategy and budgets across all the Executive Branch departments and agencies; overseeing interagency S&T programs such as the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the National Nanotechnology Initiative; developing initiatives in STEM education and training; advancing scientific integrity and openness in government; and representing the U.S. government in interactions with the U.S. and global science and engineering communities.

Prior to joining the Obama administration, Dr. Holdren was the CEO of the Woodwell Climate Research Center, in addition to several other distinguished posts in science and academia. He rejoined Woodwell in 2017 as a Senior Advisor to the President—a voluntary role providing strategic guidance, and helping the Center to remain at the forefront of climate research and policy. He is also a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Dr. Holdren earned his B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his M.S. and Ph.D from Stanford University in aerospace engineering and theoretical plasma physics. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also a foreign member of both the Royal Society of London and the Indian National Academy of Engineering and a former President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. From 1973 to 1996 he was on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, where he co-founded and co-led the interdisciplinary graduate-degree program in energy and resources.

His other honors include one of the first MacArthur Prizes (1981), the Volvo International Environment Prize (1993), the Tyler Prize for Environment (2000), and the Heinz Prize for Public Policy (2001). In 1995 he gave the acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organization of scientists and public figures in which he served in leadership positions from 1982 to 1997.

He served from 1991 to 2005 as a member of the Board of Trustees of the MacArthur Foundation and from 1994 to 2005 as Chairman of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control at the National Academy of Sciences. During the Clinton administration, he served for both terms on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, leading studies on nuclear-materials protection, fusion-energy research, strengthening federal investments in energy R&D, and international cooperation on energy-technology innovation.