Rush D. Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, will deliver the graduation address at Northeastern’s doctoral hooding and graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 2 at Cabot Cage.
A physicist and former member of Congress, Holt is a standard-bearer for ensuring that public policy is informed by science. He has dedicated his entire adult life to bridging the gap between these two disciplines, and he’ll share his experiences with graduates at the ceremony.
“It has never been a more important time for scientists to speak up for the value of science toward improving human welfare, the economy, and public policy,” said Holt. “I look forward to discussing how the scientific community can get involved and more actively participate in the public square.”
Holt will address a graduating class comprising nearly 200 PhD students, whose work and accomplishments exemplify the university’s growing PhD education profile. Northeastern’s strengths in use-inspired and interdisciplinary research, along with talented faculty, have created an intellectually ambitious and entrepreneurial environment for doctoral education. Including this year’s class, the university has graduated nearly 1,000 PhD students over the past five years. Northeastern now offers 33 PhD programs, all with experiential opportunities offered.
In addition to serving as graduation speaker, Holt will attend the university’s Experiential PhD Expo earlier in the day, where doctoral students will present their research, across disciplines, in collaboration with faculty mentors and external partners.
A distinguished career
Holt’s tenure at the AAAS, the world’s largest multi-disciplinary scientific and engineering membership organization, began three years ago. He also serves as the executive publisher of the Science family of journals.
Founded in 1848, the AAAS, with its membership of more than 120,000 has worked to advance science, engineering, and innovation in the United States through enhanced communications, educational programing, and improved collaboration. The organization recently partnered with the 2018 March for Science, a worldwide nonpartisan movement highlighting the essential role that science plays in understanding the world.
Prior to joining the AAAS, Holt served for 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing New Jersey’s 12th congressional district. He was a member of the Committee on Natural Resources, the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, advocating for federal investment in research and development, science education, and innovation.
Among his many accolades, Holt was named one of Scientific American magazine’s “50 National Visionaries Contributing to a Brighter Technological Future” and a “Champion of Science” by the Science Coalition.
Over his career, Holt has held positions as a teacher, scientist, administrator, and policymaker. From 1989 to 1998, he was assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a Department of Energy national lab and the largest research facility at Princeton University. There, Holt helped establish the lab’s nationally renowned science education program. From 1980 to 1988, Holt was on the faculty of Swarthmore College, where he taught courses in physics and public policy.
Holt’s duty to public service was instilled in him by his parents, Rush Sr. and Helen. His father was the youngest person elected to the U.S. Senate at 29 years old, and represented West Virginia from 1935 to 1941. His mother was the first woman appointed West Virginia’s secretary of state, serving from 1957 to 1959.
Holt is a graduate of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and he holds master’s and doctoral degrees in physics from New York University.