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Campus & Community

Narayanamurti accepts spot at HKS’s Belfer Center

3 min read

Venkatesh “Venky” Narayanamurti will be the new director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School’s (HKS) Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Belfer Center director Graham Allison announced April 1.

“Dean Venky,” as he is widely known, is the John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences and professor of physics at Harvard.  He succeeds John P. Holdren, who is currently on leave to serve in the Obama administration as assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Narayanamurti served as dean of the engineering and applied sciences division for a decade before stepping down last summer. He is credited with helping elevate the division to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) in 2007, reflecting Harvard’s heightened commitment to the applied sciences. At the time, SEAS replaced Harvard Kennedy School as the youngest School at Harvard.

At HKS, Narayanamurti also will be the Benjamin Pierce Professor of Technology and Public Policy.

“We will greatly miss John Holdren, but Venky is a most remarkable individual in his own right,” Allison said. “A distinguished physicist, Dean Venky’s true commitment to interdisciplinary work will be a tremendous benefit to the Belfer Center and the Harvard Kennedy School.”

Narayanamurti was an early champion of interdisciplinary initiatives and collaboration. He has worked with colleagues in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Business School, and the Harvard School of Public Health to establish new partnerships and build relationships that transcend traditional academic boundaries. While dean, he increased the size of the SEAS faculty by 50 percent. Sponsored research grew 60 percent under his leadership.

“Venky’s leadership has had a genuinely transformative impact on engineering and applied sciences at Harvard,” said Harvard President Drew Faust when Narayanamurti announced his intention to step down as dean. “He has in many ways been both the architect and the chief engineer of Harvard’s newest school, and his vision, energy, and instinct for collaboration have strengthened our capacity and elevated our sights in a vital academic domain.”

Narayanamurti received his master’s degree in physics from the University of Delhi in 1960 and his Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University in 1965. Prior to joining the Harvard faculty, he was the dean of engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2003, he was appointed the first dean of physical sciences at Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, a position he held for three years while simultaneously serving as dean of the then-Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He is also a former vice president of research and exploratory technology at Sandia National Laboratories and was the director of solid-state electronics research at Bell Labs.