A photo of a man wearing a suit and tie from the chest up.
Sethuraman Panchanathan, Ph.D., is director of the National Science Foundation. (NSF photo)

NSF director to serve as VCU’s commencement speaker

Sethuraman Panchanathan, Ph.D., who has been director of the $9.5 billion federal agency since 2020, will speak at the Dec. 9 ceremony.

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Sethuraman Panchanathan, Ph.D., director of the National Science Foundation, will serve as the featured speaker at Virginia Commonwealth University’s commencement ceremony on Dec. 9.

Panchanathan is a computer scientist and engineer who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the 15th director of the NSF on June 18, 2020. The NSF is a $9.5 billion independent federal agency charged with advancing all fields of scientific discovery, technological innovation and STEM education. Panchanathan visited VCU in February and called it one of the U.S. universities that “matter for the future.”

As NSF director, Panchanathan maintains leadership roles on several key interagency councils and committees, including serving as co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship and as a member of the White House CHIPS Implementation Steering Council and the White House Gender Policy Council.

Panchanathan previously served as executive vice president of the Arizona State University Knowledge Enterprise, where he also was chief research and innovation officer. He was also founder and director of the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing at ASU. Under his leadership, the university increased research performance fivefold, earning recognition as the fastest growing and most innovative research university in the U.S.

Panchanathan’s scientific contributions have advanced the areas of human-centered multimedia computing, haptic user interfaces and ubiquitous computing technologies for enhancing the quality of life for individuals with different abilities, machine learning for multimedia applications and media processor designs. For his scientific contributions, Panchanathan has received numerous awards and honors. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Before joining the NSF, Panchanathan served by presidential appointment on the National Science Board, where he was a chair of the committee on strategy. Additionally, he was chair of the council on research of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and co-chair of the extreme innovation task force of the Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils.

VCU’s December commencement will be held at 10 a.m. at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. For more information, visit commencement.vcu.edu/. Graduates can RSVP to attend at commencement.vcu.edu/rsvp/.