USD Biology Professor Named to National Science Foundation Post

The National Science Foundation has appointed USD Professor Paula Mabee, Ph.D., to its leadership team as director of the Division of Environmental Biology, which supports fundamental research on populations, species, communities, and ecosystems.


“I am very strong believer in the National Science Foundation’s mission, which is to promote fundamental science,” Mabee said. “As someone whose research has been funded by NSF and who has served previously on a number of panels, I am interested in helping shape the vision in the Division of Environmental Biology.”

Mabee will join NSF in August for an assignment that will last from 1-4 years. The position falls under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, which allows individuals from colleges, universities, and other organizations to hold temporary positions in the federal government. She will continue her research program at USD while serving in the NSF position.

“These temporary ‘rotator’ positions bring in fresh vision from scientists who are active in their fields,” said Mabee, whose research focuses on connecting data on organism phenotypes (like anatomy) to genes in order to enhance knowledge of development and evolution. “My research is pretty broad and has touched on core pieces in the division—evolutionary biology, developmental biology, and databases. I bring in a cross disciplinary perspective.”

Mabee’s position will include directing the activities of the Division of Environmental Biology and developing breakthrough opportunities for scientific advancements in the field. She will supervise program officers who review about 3,000 grant proposals per year.

“Our nation depends on the science that’s done at the National Science Foundation,” Mabee said. “And my division will deal with some of the critical issues facing society, such as climate change.”

Mabee will reside in Arlington, Va., the site of the headquarters of the NSF, while she completes her temporary assignment. She said she sees her new position as a way to give back to her professional field.

“This positon is federal service and also serves science,” Mabee said of her assignment. “I’m especially excited about developing new opportunities for scientists in the Division of Environmental Biology.”