APS News

Sole Physicist in Congress Prepares to Defend Science

The only physicist in the U.S. Congress is joining the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

March 2, 2015  |  Michael Lucibella

Bill Foster photo
Photo: house.gov

Representative Bill Foster (D-Ill.)

Representative Bill Foster (D-Ill.), who holds a Ph.D. in physics and formerly worked at Fermilab, announced on Wednesday that he was appointed to serve on the committee.

“As a scientist, I know firsthand how important it is for the United States to sustain our position as the leader in science and technology,” Foster said in a statement. “Serving on this committee will allow me to better advocate for sustained investments in research and development and support Illinois’s national laboratories.”

Though the only Ph.D. physicist in Congress, Foster previously had focused much of his attention on financial reform since his election in 2008. In an interview with Science, he said that he wanted to counter some of the “attacks” on science he’s seen coming from the committee in recent months.

Foster’s announcement comes as the chair of the committee, Lamar Smith (R-Texas), pursues inquiries into about sixty grants issued by the National Science Foundation, a number of which he referred to as “questionable.” The chair’s actions sparked controversy and accusations of political attacks on research from the scientific community.

Before being elected to Congress, Foster was a high-energy physicist at Fermilab for more than twenty years. He helped design particle accelerators and was a part of the team that discovered the top quark in 1995.