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Joanne Tornow, Ph.D.

National Science Foundation


Dr. Joanne Tornow joined the National Science Foundation (NSF) in September 1999 as a Program Director in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB), Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO). Throughout her NSF career, Dr. Tornow served with distinction in multiple program and leadership positions throughout the agency and has been a member of the Federal Senior Executive Service since 2011.

In December 2014, Dr. Tornow was appointed as NSF’s Chief Human Capital Officer and Head of the Office of Information and Resource Management, overseeing information technology, human resource management, and administrative services for the agency. She also led the transition of NSF from its old headquarters in Arlington to its new, state-of-the-art building in Alexandria, Virginia.

Dr. Tornow rejoined the Biological Sciences Directorate in January 2018 as the Acting Assistant Director and was subsequently appointed as the Assistant Director for the Biological Sciences at NSF in December 2018, serving in that role until her retirement in September 2022. Under her leadership, BIO launched multiple new programs aimed at reintegrating the many subdisciplines of biology and addressing grand challenges in mitigating the impacts of climate change on living systems, emerging infectious diseases, and leveraging biotechnology to grow the bioeconomy. BIO was also recognized twice as being among the best places to work in the federal government.

Prior to joining NSF, Dr. Tornow served as Assistant Professor at Portland State University, and as tenured Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi. In 1997, she received an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowship, during which she served for a year on the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee followed by a year at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She has a BA in Biology from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. in Genetics from Yale University.

Science Programs at Allen Institute