Engineering dean to serve on UN Scientific Advisory Board

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UC Berkeley College of Engineering Dean S. Shankar Sastry will join a new United Nations Scientific Advisory Board that will provide counsel on international decisions regarding sustainable development.

Sastry received notice of the appointment Sept. 27, three days after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced his intention to create the board in an effort to further integrate science into policy discussion.

The 26-member board, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, will have two United States representatives — Sastry and Susan Avery, director of a nonprofit marine-science research institution.

“I’m honored, really honored,” Sastry said. “It’s humbling to be included in this group.”

Sastry said the appointment is in line with a long history of work on sustainable development at UC Berkeley. As examples, he pointed to his 2008 meeting with former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and the work of colleagues such as UC Berkeley professor of energy Daniel Kammen.

“There are a lot of people on campus who have a lot to say, and so I think it’s really a pleasure to sort of bring to voice a lot of what we’ve been talking about on campus,” Sastry said. “I do think it will help us get the Berkeley message out to an international forum.”

Kammen said Sastry has pushed for many sustainability research projects on campus. Sastry’s record includes his work on Berkeley-India Joint Leadership on Energy and the Environment and his position as faculty director of the Blum Center for Developing Economies.

The creation of the board, Kammen said, also fits with what he sees as Ban’s respect for science’s ability to inform policy.

“It’s really consistent with what I think the U.N. is doing right, and that is emphasizing what science and technology can offer in the process of sustainable development,” Kammen said.

Although Sastry acknowledges the extra time commitment joining the board entails, he sees the role as harmonious with his other jobs, calling them “synergistic.” Additionally, College of Engineering Associate Dean of Research Jeffrey Bokor noted that Sastry’s experience on the board can influence his work on campus.

“It brings him a visibility of what UNESCO is up to in a way that he could not otherwise have had,” Bokor said. “What Dean Sastry will learn from serving on this board will come back to the university.”

Other board appointees include Ahmed Zewail, a Nobel laureate in chemistry and Linus Pauling Chair professor of chemistry at California Institute of Technology, and Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, according to Sastry.

“(The board is) really a way to engage the whole world, because the planet that they have to save is ours — is all of ours,” he said.

Contact Melissa Wen at [email protected].