President Biden plans to nominate Geraldine Richmond as Under Secretary for Science at the Department of Energy (DOE), and Cathy Harris as the nominee for Chair of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), the White House announced April 28.

If confirmed by the Senate, Richmond will be a key figure in DOE’s tech leadership lineup. The undersecretary position serves as the Secretary of Energy’s science and technology advisor, and monitors DOE’s research and development programs and advises the secretary on any gaps or duplications in those programs.

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Richmond currently serves as the Presidential Chair in Science and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oregon.

“Bridging the fields of chemistry and physics, Richmond’s research focuses on understanding the molecular characteristics of water surfaces, studies that have relevance to environmental issues such as oil remediation, atmospheric chemistry and alternative energy sources,” the White House said in a  press release. “Her teaching and extensive outreach efforts have focused on science communication and building a strong and inclusive workforce.”

If confirmed as chair of MSPB, Harris is likely to face a heavy backlog of work as head of the organization that exists to protect Federal merit systems against partisan political and other prohibited practices, and to ensure protection for Federal employees against abuses by management. The board lacked a quorum during the Trump administration.

Earlier this month, House Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and ranking member Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., urged President Biden to appoint new MSPB board members or risk having the organization cease operations. Among other concerns, the members of Congress said that without a quorum the board could not take action on claims of whistleblower retaliation  They also said the board had a backlog of more than 3,000 petitions from Federal employees alleging that their agencies have acted unlawfully against them.

Harris most recently served as co-manager of Kator, Parks, Weisder & Harris, PLLC, in Washington, D.C. According to the White House, Harris has practiced employment law for over two decades, including before the MSPB.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.