Dr. Joanne Tornow

Assistant Director (Acting) for Biological Sciences
Designee of Dr. France Córdova, Director

National Science Foundation


Dr. Joanne Tornow, Head, Office of Information and Resource Management (OIRM), has agreed to serve as acting assistant director for the Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) while a nationwide search is underway.

Tornow received her B.A. in biology from Rutgers University in 1979 and her Ph.D. in human genetics from Yale University in 1983. Her research training is in the area of molecular biology and genetics, focusing on the regulation of gene expression in eukaryotic systems.

After completing postdoctoral training at the University of California, Tornow served on the faculty at Portland State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. She ultimately achieved the rank of associate professor of biological sciences, where she taught genetics and molecular biology to undergraduate and graduate students and did research on gene regulation in yeast.

In the fall of 1997, Tornow came to Washington, D.C., on a science and technology policy fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She spent a year working in the Senate and a second year at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy where she worked on a variety of issues including veterans health and compensation, stem cell research, data access and biomedical research funding.

Tornow began working at NSF in the fall of 1999 as a program director in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) in NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO), where she was responsible for managing grant proposals focused on investigating mechanisms and regulation of gene expression. In June 2006, she moved to the office of the assistant director for Biological Sciences at NSF where she served as senior adviser for strategic planning, policy and analysis. After completing a two-year rotation as division director of the MCB Division in 2009, she served as the acting executive officer for the BIO Directorate until June 2011. After being accepted as a member of the Federal Senior Executive Service in June 2011, she served as deputy assistant director and acting assistant director for the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, and became head of OIRM in December 2014.

As of Jan. 9, 2018, Tornow is serving as acting assistant director for the Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) at NSF while a nationwide search is underway. Her appointment to this position will ensure continuity and leadership in BIO during this transition period.

Back to Board of Directors