Joint Global Change Research Institute Appoints New Director

By: Lauren Kirkwood
Publisher: Council on the Environment
Published: October 25, 2013

The Joint Global Change Research Institute, a collaborative organization of the University of Maryland and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that works to investigate climate change impacts and solutions, will bring renowned scientist Dr. Ghassem R. Asrar on board as director. 

Asrar, who currently serves as director of the World Climate Research Program for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, will join the Institute on Nov. 11.
Before joining the WCRP, Asrar worked at NASA for several decades, serving as deputy associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate and associate administrator of the Office of Earth Sciences, as well as chief scientist for the Earth Observing System, a satellite-based program that transformed scientific understanding of the climate system.
While at NASA, Asrar also established the Earth System Science graduate fellowship, as well as New Investigator Programs to promote the training of promising earth scientists and engineers.
Asrar, who holds graduate degrees in both civil engineering and environmental physics from Michigan State University, also worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, serving as deputy administrator for Natural Resources and Agricultural Systems for the Agricultural Research Service from 2006 to 2008. 
“Dr. Asrar's past experience, particularly with NASA's Earth Science Enterprise and as director of the World Climate Research Programme in Geneva, gives him a particularly broad perspective on how science can help inform our understanding of pressing environmental concerns,” said Nathan Hultman, associate director of the institute and public policy professor at the university. 
“Dr Asrar is a great choice to guide JGCRI, and by extension the broader intellectual community at UMD, to provide useful and beneficial information for society through excellent science and modeling,” Hultman said.
Marc Imhoff, interim director of the Institute, said Asrar’s vast experience in the scientific community will help the Institute make progress toward its multiple goals. 
“As research funds become less bountiful, it is critical that the Institute makes decisions about research direction and collaborations that will both advance the science and position us sufficiently to win funds,” Imhoff said. “This means we need to form important relationships that will help accomplish that.”
Asrar’s background in promoting the training of young scientists also mirrors the Institute’s goal of cultivating relationships with the university community, Imhoff said.
“Since we are a Joint Institute with UMD, we are committed to mentoring and training the next generation of scientists and professionals,” he said. “This means we will want to be fostering an even closer interaction with UMD faculty, students and staff.”

Reprinted from Council on the Environment with permission.