University of California leader Theresa Maldonado elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

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University of California leader Theresa Maldonado elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science have elected Theresa Maldonado, vice president for research and innovation at the University of California, to serve as the organization’s president-elect. Image credit: American Association for the Advancement of Science

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University of California leader Theresa Maldonado elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Theresa Maldonado, vice president for research and innovation at the University of California, has been elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

With more than 120,000 individual members in more than 91 countries, AAAS is the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society and a leading publisher of innovative research through the Science family of journals. Starting immediately, Maldonado will serve a one-year term as president-elect, followed by one year as AAAS president, and one year as immediate past-president.

Theresa Maldonado; ; Photo credit Theresa A. Maldonado

Maldonado joined the University of California Office of the President in 2020, after a rich  career spanning industry (AT&T Bell Laboratories), the federal government (National Science Foundation), and academia (faculty and university administration) She now oversees one of the world’s largest research and innovation enterprises, encompassing UC’s 10 campuses, three UC-managed Department of Energy national laboratories, a statewide division of Agriculture & Natural Resources, and UC Health.

Accordingly, she describes herself as a “dot connector and systems thinker.” She sees AAAS as serving several unique roles in support of the nation’s scientific achievement: as an advancer of systems thinking, an aligner of the competing interests in the many communities—including academia, industry and government—that comprise the scientific enterprise, and a trusted listener that builds consensus and collaboration through impactful partnerships.

“The potential to authentically engage different people, diverse thoughts, and systems thinking is tremendous; we just need the alignment and sense of urgency,” Maldonado said in her AAAS candidate statement. “AAAS is at a pivotal moment as a professional society to enable and guide the scientific enterprise, policy makers, and an inclusive global scientific citizenry to reimagine and influence future directions for the benefit of society.”

During her time at UC, Maldonado has utilized her position as UC’s chief research officer to tackle some of California’s thorniest challenges. Upon her arrival in 2020, she engaged in close partnership with the California Department of Public Health, UC Health and UC-wide stakeholders, marshaling UC research labs to reduce COVID testing and sequencing bottlenecks. More recently, she played an instrumental role in securing $185 million from California—the state’s largest investment in UC-administered research.  Of this investment, $100M supports the statewide Climate Action Initiative, which funds research and innovation and entrepreneurship programs aimed at boosting climate resilience across the state  with a focus on protections for the state’s most vulnerable communities.

She also oversaw California’s bid to launch a clean hydrogen economy. In October 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $1.2B award for the Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES), a statewide public-private partnership led by UC (Research & Innovation), the Governor’s office, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, and Renewables 100. Partners include industry, government agencies, ports, labor, communities, and others. This effort brings together communities living along some of California’s most polluted ports and transportation corridors to deploy renewable, clean energy. In addition, Maldonado is working to revitalize UC’s innovation transfer ecosystem, which supports campus research and technology programs to bring UC’s research from the lab to market for public benefit and economic growth.

“In selecting Theresa Maldonado, the AAAS community should have great confidence in its elected leadership for the next few years,” said Sudip S. Parikh, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “She brings a unique perspective and many strengths to the organization, and I’m glad to have her as part of our leadership team.”

Additional information about AAAS leadership and Maldonado’s role as president-elect can be found here.

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