"We are pleased to have Dr. Olsen address our graduates at a time when we are planning a major expansion of our science facilities," said President Thomas L. Hellie. "Linfield has long been known for its outstanding science programs. The strong academic curriculum, coupled with a tradition of faculty-student collaborative research, has led to our students being accepted into some of the top graduate programs in the country."
Olsen will address 500 candidates for degrees 312 from McMinnville, 86 from the Portland Campus and 102 from the Adult Degree Program.
Olsen has been deputy director of NSF since 2005. She joined the agency from the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President, where she was the associate director and deputy director for science. She was responsible for overseeing science and education policy including physical sciences, life sciences, environmental science, and behavioral and social sciences.
Prior to that, she served as the chief scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from May 1999 to April 2002 and the acting associate administrator for the new Enterprise in Biological and Physical Research from July 2000 to March 2002. As NASA chief scientist, she served not only as the administrator's senior scientific advisor and principal interface with the national and international scientific community, but she was also the principal advisor to the administrator on budget content of the scientific programs.
Before joining NASA, Olsen was the senior staff associate for the Science and Technology Centers in the NSF Office of Integrative Activities. From February 1996 to November 1997, she was a Brookings Institute Legislative Fellow and then a NSF detail in the Office of Senator Conrad Burns of Montana. Preceding her work on Capitol Hill, she served for two years as acting deputy director for the Division of Integrative Biology and Neuroscience at the NSF, where she has worked and held numerous other science-related positions.
Olsen received her B.S. with honors from Chatham College, Pittsburgh, Pa., majoring in both biology and psychology and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the University of California, Irvine. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neuroscience at Childrens Hospital of Harvard Medical School. Subsequently at SUNY-Stony Brook she was both a research scientist at Long Island Research Institute and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the Medical School. Her research on neural and genetic mechanisms underlying development and expression of behavior was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
Her awards include the NSF Director's Superior Accomplishment Award; the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society Award; the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Award for outstanding contributions in research and education; the Barry M. Goldwater Educator Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics-National Capital Section; the Barnard Medal of Distinction, which is the college's most significant recognition of individuals for demonstrated excellence in conduct of their lives and careers; and NASA's Outstanding Leadership Medal. She has also received honorary degrees from Chatham College, Clarkson University and University of South Carolina.