Nina Fedoroff

Science Board Fellow

Research Interests:  Dr. Fedoroff has carried out research on topics ranging from biochemical mechanisms of transposition, microRNA processing and stress response in plants.  She lectures on a variety of topics ranging from modern molecular techniques of genetic modification to the history and future of agriculture.

Biography: Fedoroff received her BS from Syracuse University, graduating summa cum laude with a dual major in biology and chemistry, and her PhD in molecular biology from the Rockefeller University.

She received fellowships from the Damon Runyan-Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fund and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for postdoctoral work, first at UCLA and then in the Department of Embryology of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Baltimore, Maryland.  Working in the laboratory of Donald Brown, Fedoroff pioneered DNA sequencing, determining the nucleotide sequence of the first complete gene.  In 1978, Fedoroff became a staff member of the Carnegie Institution for Science and a faculty member in the Biology Department at Johns Hopkins University.  Her research focused on the molecular characterization of maize transposable elements.

In 1995 Fedoroff joined the faculty of the Pennsylvania State University as Willaman Professor of Life Sciences, retiring in 2015.  From 1995 to 2002, she served as the Director of the Biotechnology Institute and she organized and served as the founding Director of the Life Sciences Consortium (now the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences), a seven-college organization devoted to the promotion of multidisciplinary research and teaching in the life sciences. In 2002, Fedoroff was named an Evan Pugh Professor of the Pennsylvania State University and in 2003 she became a member of the External Faculty of the Santa Fe Institute. She has published three books and more that 160 papers in scientific journals.

Fedoroff has served on the editorial boards of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Gene, Plant Journal and Perspectives in Biology and Medicine and has chaired the NAS Council’s Publications Committee. She served on the Board of the International Science Foundation and the International Scientific Advisory Board of the Englehardt Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow and the Science Steering Committee of the Santa Fe Institute.  She has been a member of the Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the Board of Directors of the Genetics Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Board of Trustees of BIOSIS, the Board of Directors of the Sigma-Aldrich Corporation and the National Science Board, which oversees the National Science Foundation. She served as President of AAAS in 2012.

Fedoroff received the University of Chicago’s Howard Taylor Ricketts Award in 1990, the New York Academy of Sciences’ Outstanding Contemporary Woman Scientist award in 1992, the Sigma Xi’s McGovern Science and Society Medal in 1997, Syracuse University’s Arents Pioneer Medal in 2003, the 2010 Leadership in Public Service Award of the American Society of Plant Biology, and the 2013 Nevada Medal. She is a member the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Microbiology, the International Academy of Food Science and Technology and the National Academy of Sciences.  She is a 2006 National Medal of Science laureate. She received an honorary doctorate from the Rockefeller University in 2008.

Fedoroff served as the Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State and to the Administrator of the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington DC from 2007 to 2010.  She served as Distinguished Professor of Biosciences at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia from 2011 until 2014, establishing its Center for Desert Agriculture. She is currently serving as the Senior Science Advisor to OFW Law in Washington, DC.