The United States Senate has confirmed UCSC alumna Kathryn Sullivan as under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. In this capacity, she will serve as the tenth administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the nation's top agency for climate, oceans, and the atmosphere.
With a budget of $4.7 billion and more than 12,000 employees in every U.S. state and locations around the world, NOAA works to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages the nation's coastal and marine resources.
Sullivan assumed the role of acting under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and acting NOAA administrator in February 2013. Before that, she had been serving as assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction and deputy NOAA administrator, as well as performing the duties as the agency's chief scientist.
Sullivan graduated from UCSC in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in Earth sciences. As a member of the NASA astronaut corps, she became the first U.S. woman to walk in space in 1984. Six years later, Sullivan joined fellow UCSC grad Steven Hawley (Ph.D., astronomy and astrophysics, '77) on the shuttle mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. She flew on three shuttle missions during her 15-year tenure as an astronaut.
An accomplished oceanographer, Sullivan earned a Ph.D. in geology at Dalhousie University in Canada. She was appointed NOAA's chief scientist in 1993, overseeing a research and technology portfolio that included fisheries biology, climate change, satellite instrumentation, and marine biodiversity. Sullivan later served a decade as president and CEO of the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio, one of the nation's leading science museums, and was the inaugural director of the Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy at Ohio State University. She has also served on the National Science Board and as an oceanographer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
Sullivan was the keynote speaker at UCSC's 2011 Scholarship Benefit Dinner.