U professor appointed to position at NSF

Kelly Gulbrandson

The University will be losing a faculty member to the National Science Foundation in July.

Robert Sterner, University ecology professor, was recently appointed as director of the Division of Environmental Biology for the NSF, and will serve for two years.

Longtime friend and fellow ecology professor Jim Cotner said he will miss Sterner, but is excited about the opportunity.

“He will have a nice potential to change natural sciences,” Cotner said.

Sterner’s research interests involve limnology, aquatic systems in Lake Superior, plankton and other living organisms in the water. His new position will take him to Washington, D.C.

“During this time, I will not be teaching, but will come back from time to time to check on my research,” Sterner said.

This appointment will not directly affect the University since the NSF is careful about avoiding conflicts of interests with its faculty members.

This means Sterner will not be able to direct money to the University; however, he will be able to bring more attention to Minnesota’s problems.

On a recent trip to the NSF, Sterner was informed of the opening and encouraged to apply for it. When he arrived back in Minnesota, he applied for the position and had two interviews before hearing he got the job.

Dr. James Collins, NSF assistant director for biological sciences, selected Sterner for the position.

“We chose him because of his strong research abilities and we are glad we were able to recruit him,” Collins said.

This prestigious appointment is given to professors and researchers who have strong research abilities and are established in their field, Collins said.

Out of 70 faculty members at the NSF, approximately 35 are university professors who serve two-year terms in various departments to further their research.

The NSF is a research facility that funds projects for professors and universities that pursue science advances. Its mission is to promote the progress of science, to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare – to secure the national defense, Collins said.

Sterner’s new appointment will be more of a supervisory role and will strengthen his leadership abilities. He will be responsible for planning projects and other administrative duties.

Sterner is a major intellectual force in his field and his research is relevant to NSF’s mission, and the appointment will allow for more creative scientists in the field, Cotner said.

One of Sterner’s accomplishments is publishing a book in which he wrote about the study of the balance of chemical elements in ecological interactions.

He also released a study about nitrate level increases in Lake Superior, which appeared in the Web magazine Science Daily.

After completing his two-year term, Sterner is undecided as to whether he will remain with the foundation.

“He will be missed,” Cotner said.