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Dr. Marcia McNutt

Dr. Marcia McNutt

First Female President of the National Academy of Sciences

Dr. Marcia McNutt, a geophysicist whose career has navigated diverse terrains, both literal and

metaphorical, stands as a prominent figure in science leadership and advocacy. From delving into

the mysteries of oil spills, fossil fuels and climate engineering to leading the National Academy

of Sciences, McNutt’s journey exemplifies dedication to scientific exploration and pushing


Born in 1952, McNutt began her journey towards academic excellence early on, culminating in

her valedictorian status at Northrop Collegiate School (now The Blake School) in Minneapolis,

graduating in 1970. She continued her academic pursuits with remarkable success, earning a

bachelor’s degree in physics with summa cum laude honors and Phi Beta Kappa distinction from Colorado College in 1973. McNutt then pursued her passion for geophysics as a National

Science Foundation Graduate Fellow at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she

obtained her Ph.D. in Earth sciences in 1978, focusing her research on understanding the deep processes that create and maintain mountains and ocean basins. 

In July 2009, McNutt’s career trajectory took a significant turn when she was appointed by

President Obama to serve as the director of the United States Geological Survey and science

adviser to the United States Secretary of the Interior, a position she held until 2013.

Subsequently, she assumed the role of editor-in-chief of the esteemed peer-reviewed

journal Science from 2013 to 2016 while also maintaining a visiting appointment at the Scripps

Institution of Oceanography. McNutt’s expertise and leadership were further recognized when

she chaired the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Geoengineering Climate, which

published its findings on climate geoengineering in February 2015. In July 2015, McNutt’s

exceptional contributions to the scientific community led to her nomination as the president of

the National Academy of Sciences, a position she was elected and re-elected to, serving a

distinguished six-year term from July 1, 2016, until June 30, 2026.

Dr. Marcia McNutt’s illustrious achievements are illuminated as we celebrate her groundbreaking contributions across various fronts. From explaining how and where ocean islands form, to effectively ending the Deepwater Horizon oil spill crisis, to crusading for reforms to ensure the trustworthiness of scientific research, and even to ensuring the survival of Ukrainian science in the wake of the Russian invasion. McNutt’s dedication to science communication and accessibility shines through her role as editor-in-chief of Science journals, where she has made science relatable and engaging for the broader public. Moreover, her trailblazing journey includes breaking barriers as the first woman president of the National Academy of Sciences, where she continues to advocate passionately for inclusivity within the scientific community, inspiring generations to come.

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