First published in Around the O on April 29, 2021.
Geraldine Richmond, the UO’s Presidential Chair in Science and a much-honored professor of chemistry, has been nominated to serve in the Biden administration as undersecretary for science in the Department of Energy.
Richmond is one of 16 people recently nominated by President Joe Biden for positions in his administration. Her nomination requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
“From solving environmental challenges through the power of the basic sciences, to guiding some of America’s most critical international climate negotiations, to helping the federal government navigate the clean energy transition, each of these nominees brings a wealth of experience that will be instrumental as we work towards achieving the president’s ambitious climate goals,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.
The undersecretary for science oversees the Energy Department’s Office of Science, advises the secretary of energy on energy and technology issues, monitors the department’s research and development programs, and advises the secretary on management of the DOE’s national laboratories, among other duties.
A professor at the UO since 1985, Richmond has carved out a groundbreaking career studying the molecular characteristics of water surfaces, studies that have relevance to environmental issues such as oil remediation, atmospheric chemistry and alternative energy sources. She has designed state-of-the-art laser systems, optics equipment and computers that work in tandem to understand molecular processes at liquid surfaces that have environmental importance.
Richmond also has been a pioneer in advocating for the advancement of women in science.
In 1998, Richmond and Jeanne Pemberton of the University of Arizona co-founded COACh, the Committee on the Advancement of Women Chemists. The organization has delivered a series of successful workshops on negotiation, leadership and conflict resolution to more than 15,000 women in all fields of science and engineering around the U.S.
Since 2010 Richmond has taken COACh to developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The international workshops, which include guidance on publishing and proposal writing, have been conducted in more than 20 countries.
In addition, Richmond has served on the National Science Board and was a U.S. science envoy to Southeast Asia. She also served a term as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
She has received numerous honors and awards, including the National Medal of Science from President Obama in 2016, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from President Clinton in 1997 and the American Chemical Society’s highest honor, the Priestley Medal, in 2018. Richmond is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Chemical Society, the American Physical Society and the Association for Women in Science.
A native of Kansas, Richmond received her bachelor’s in chemistry from Kansas State University in 1975 and her doctorate in physical chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley in 1980.