Dr. Neal Lane is the Senior Fellow in Science and Technology Policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and holds the titles of Malcolm Gillis University Professor Emeritus and Professor of Physics and Astronomy Emeritus at Rice University.
Prior to returning to Rice University, Lane served in the Federal government during the Bill Clinton Administration as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, from August 1998 to January 2001, and as Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and member (ex officio) of the National Science Board, from October 1993 to August 1998.
Before becoming the NSF Director, Lane was Provost and Professor of Physics at Rice University in Houston, Texas, a position he had held since 1986. He first came to Rice in 1966, when he joined the Department of Physics as an assistant professor. In 1972, he became Professor of Physics and Professor of Space Science (later the departments merged as the Department of Physics and Astronomy). He left Rice from mid-1984 to 1986 to serve as Chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. In addition, from 1979 to 1980, while on leave from Rice, he worked at the NSF as Director of the Division of Physics.
Widely regarded as a distinguished scientist and educator, Lane’s many writings and presentations include topics in theoretical atomic and molecular physics and science and technology policy. Early in his career he received the W. Alton Jones Graduate Fellowship and held an NSF Doctoral Fellowship (University of Oklahoma), an NSF Post-Doctoral Fellowship (while in residence at Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland) and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship (at Rice University and on research leave at Oxford University). He earned Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1960 and was inducted into Sigma Xi National Research Society in 1964, serving as its national president in 1993. He held research appointments as Visiting Fellow at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics in 1965-66 and 1975-76.
Through his work with scientific and professional organizations and his participation on review and advisory committees for Federal and state agencies, Lane has contributed to public service throughout his career. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (co-chairman of its governing council 2010), the American Association for Advancement of Science and the Association for Women in Science. He has served on several boards and advisory committees.
Lane has received numerous prizes and awards. While a Professor at Rice, he was two-time recipient of the University’s George R. Brown Prize for Superior Teaching. Other recognitions include: the AAAS Philip Hauge Abelson Award, AAAS William D. Carey Award, American Society of Mechanical Engineers President’s Award, American Chemical Society Public Service Award, American Astronomical Society /American Mathematical Society/American Physical Society Public Service Award, NASA Distinguished Service Award, Council of Science Societies Presidents Support of Science Award, Distinguished Alumni Award of the University of Oklahoma, and over a dozen honorary degrees. In 2009, Lane received the National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal, the American Institute of Physics K.T. Compton Medal for Leadership in Physics, and the Association of Rice Alumni Gold Medal for service to Rice University. In 2011 he received the Distinguished Friend of Science Award from the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA). In 2013 he received the Vannevar Bush Award from NSF’s National Science Board. In 2015 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. In 2019, he received a Broader Impacts Champion award from the Center for Advancing Research Impact in Science (ARIS) as well as the Oklahoma City Public Schools Wall of Honor Award, presented by the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation.
Born in Oklahoma City in 1938, Lane graduated from Southeast Secondary School (1956) and entered the University of Oklahoma. He earned his B.S. (1960), M.S. (1962), and Ph.D. (1964) degrees in physics from the University of Oklahoma. His thesis advisor was Dr. Chun C. Lin (currently at the University of Wisconsin – Madison). Lane is married to Joni Sue (Williams) Lane, who earned her B.S. in mathematics (1960) from the University of Oklahoma. They have two children, Christy Saydjari and John Lane – both graduates of Rice University – and four grandchildren, Allia and Alex Saydjari, and Matthew and Jessica Lane.
Hear more from Neal Lane on his career journey, the unique role of the President’s science advisor, and the critical steps the U.S. can take to better leverage R&D against current and looming societal challenges.
For more information about the Herbert Pardes Family Award for National Leadership in Advocacy for Research, click here.