UT’s Parker Selected as National Science Foundation Division Director


Parker stands behind a pair of robots that she helped design to be more independent.

When an accomplished faculty member takes a new position with another institution, it typically isn’t cause for celebration.

However, when that institution is the National Science Foundation and the professor can continue working with their school—as is the case with UT’s Lynne Parker—it is a double bonus for the university.

“To be selected for this is a prestigious honor, not just for me but for UT and for the College of Engineering,” said Parker, associate head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “This puts us in select company with other universities like Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and California-Berkeley, and really validates our place on the map.”

Parker will serve as the division director of Information and Intelligent Systems in the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate at the NSF.

She is the first current UT faculty member to be selected as a divisional director, though others have served as program officers.

For Parker, who has played a key role in the Center for Intelligent Systems and Machine Learning at UT and in the development of “smart” robotics, the position means a chance to keep the spotlight on this increasingly important field.

“This is a really good opportunity to take a look at the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence, both of which are near and dear to my heart,” said Parker. “It’s a chance to not only set the pace, but also to look ahead at what the next developments might be, both internally, such as with funding, and externally, such as with outreach and policy.”

For Parker, who will shuttle back to UT once a week to continue research, the immediate goal will be to get the division focused on the same efforts.

Working with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Parker said she envisions some of the bigger initiatives—such as Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) and working with big data—to be among the first priorities.

Tying cyberphysical systems into a city’s infrastructure is another topic Parker mentioned as being high on the agenda.

From UT’s standpoint, in addition to the prestige that comes with Parker’s appointment—which could last anywhere from one to three years—comes the added bonus of having a familiar face at the NSF.

“Certainly, knowing someone who can help navigate the inner workings of the NSF can only help,” said Parker.

Parker’s new role with the NSF begins January. 5.

C O N T A C T :

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)