Tanya Das, PhD EE ‘17: New Chief of Staff, U.S. Office of Science

ECE alumna Tanya Das appointed to a senior position in the Department of Energy (DOE) as the new chief of staff to the Office of Science by President Joe Biden’s administration

photo of tanya das

“This position is a dream job,” said Tanya Das, who was a member of associate professor Jon Schuller's research group at UCSB where she studied the effects of light engineering on multipolar resonances in nanoparticles. “It is an incredible honor to be appointed to advance climate change and racial equity for an administration led by one of the politicians I most respect, President Joe Biden, and the first Black and South Asian and first female Vice President, Kamala Harris.”

With a $7 billion budget, the Office of Science supports research in the physical sciences, stewards ten of DOE’s seventeen national laboratories, and supports workforce development and training programs for teachers and students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“My job is to implement the priorities of the Biden-Harris administration at the Office of Science,” said Das. “I hope to support the phenomenal staff at the Office of Science by rebuilding its focus on climate science, climate adaptation and mitigation, and clean energy, while strengthening partnerships with the frontline communities who have experienced the worst effects of climate change. I also hope to advance programs that instill the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM programs and the national labs that the Office of Science supports.”

Das has been applying her training as a scientist to evaluate and improve policy in Washington, D.C. ever since she completed her doctorate from UCSB in 2017. She was named a 2017-18 Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow by the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers and the Optical Society of America (SPIE/OSA), serving a one-year term as a special assistant on the staff of U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. The fellowship provided insight into the inner workings of government as she worked to support the senator’s economic policy team, as well as  professional training opportunities by the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS). After the fellowship, she joined the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology as a professional staff member, where she worked on a range of issues in clean energy and manufacturing policy until her appointment to the Office of Science.  

Das says that she developed the essential skills she needed to succeed in Washington both inside and outside of the research lab at UCSB. A member of Professor Schuller’s research group, Das worked in the field of metamaterials, exploring new ways to manipulate light using nanoparticles by changing a property of light known as polarization. 

“My work in the Schuller Lab helped me gain a solid understanding of the research process and federal funding mechanisms for our nation’s scientific research enterprise,” said Das.

“Tanya was very hard-working and affable, it's no surprise she found such success in public service,” said Schuller. “She is a testament to why graduate students should think about their long-term career goals during their PhD and work to develop the skills and experiences that will best propel them toward success.”

For two years while at UCSB, she also was a program evaluator for UCSB’s Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships (CSEP), which focuses on improving the educational and career outcomes of current and future scientists and engineers.

COE News – "ECE Alumna Appointed Chief of Staff of the Office of Science" (full article)