Gerald Blazey, a Distinguished Research Professor of Physics at Northern Illinois University and special advisor for science to NIU President John Peters, will lend his expertise in the coming years to another president: Barack Obama.
Blazey has accepted a two-year post as a senior policy advisor for the physical sciences in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). He now reports directly to Carl Wieman, who was confirmed in September by the U.S. Senate to serve as the OSTP Associate Director for Science.
“This wonderful opportunity for Dr. Blazey speaks volumes, both to his talents as a scientist and to the quality of our faculty here at Northern Illinois University,” NIU President John Peters said. “NIU has relied on Dr. Blazey’s insights and expertise for many years, and now we have the chance to share his talents with our nation.”
The OSTP provides scientific and technical advice to President Obama and others within the Executive Office of the President and ensures that the scientific and technical work of the Executive Branch is well-coordinated as it relates to both domestic and international affairs.
The physical sciences group at OSTP plays an important role in coordinating interagency relationships between NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy and works closely on policy issues relating to particle physics, nuclear physics and materials science, among other topics.
As Assistant Director for Physical Sciences, Blazey will be responsible for working on physical science policy issues throughout the federal government. His duties will include formulating policy for the justification, planning, management and coordination of activities.
“This appointment recognizes not only Dr. Blazey’s experience and expertise, but also the high quality of the high energy physics research being performed at NIU in collaboration with Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory,” said Lisa Freeman, NIU’s vice president for research and graduate studies.
Blazey, who is taking a two-year leave of absence from the university, will not participate in any matters that have a direct impact on NIU.
“We are certain that Dr. Blazey will excel in his new role where he will be expected to work directly with the White House, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and NASA,” Freeman said.
Blazey took up residence last week in his office in the New Executive Office Building, part of the White House complex. He said he learned of the OSTP position last year, won an interview in November and was offered the post by Wieman, a scientist who shared in the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics.
“I’m excited to play a small role in the big picture of our country’s science program,” Blazey said. “High energy physics is at a crossroads, so I’m hoping my expertise in this area in particular will be of assistance. It also will be exciting to learn more about all of the other science programs nationwide.”
He was encouraged to accept the post by Peters, Freeman and Christopher McCord, dean of NIU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “I’m heavily involved in research projects at NIU, but they made it easy by providing support for additional scientific personnel in my absence,” Blazey said.
“Not only is this an incredible opportunity for Dr. Blazey, but he truly is uniquely qualified,” McCord added. “He has a wealth of experience and knowledge working with scientific agencies, managing large projects and leading international scientific collaborations. Also, importantly, he’s a first-rate scientist.”
Blazey has had a stellar career at NIU. He joined the faculty in 1996 after earning a reputation as a top scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Batavia. At NIU, he helped establish and has served as co-director of the Northern Illinois Center for Accelerator and Detector Development (NICADD).
In 2000, he was awarded NIU’s Presidential Research Professorship, the university’s highest honor for outstanding research. He later was named NIU presidential science advisor, a position charged with assisting university leadership in the development of scientific initiatives, coordinating the university’s work with federal laboratories and expanding research into the medical applications of accelerator physics.
Outside the university, Blazey has served two terms as co-spokesperson for Fermilab’s international DZero collaboration, among the world’s premier experiments in particle physics. In 2007, he began a three-year Intergovernmental Personnel Assignment with the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, where he served as program manager of the International Linear Collider Program in the Office of High Energy Physics.