Joanne Tornow, Ph.D.

Dr. Joanne Tornow is the Assistant Director for Biological Sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Tornow received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Rutgers University in 1979 and her doctorate degree in human genetics from Yale University in 1983. Her research training is in molecular biology and genetics, focusing on the regulation of gene expression in eukaryotic systems.

After completing postdoctoral training at the University of California, Tornow served on the faculty at Portland State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. She ultimately achieved the rank of associate professor of biological sciences, where she taught genetics and molecular biology to undergraduate and graduate students and did research on gene regulation in yeast.

In the fall of 1997, Tornow came to Washington, D.C. on a science and technology policy fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She spent a year working in the Senate and a second year at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where she worked on a variety of issues including veterans’ health and compensation, stem cell research, data access and biomedical research funding.

Tornow began working at NSF in the fall of 1999 as a program director in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) in NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO), where she was responsible for managing grant proposals focused on investigating mechanisms and regulation of gene expression. In June 2006, she moved to the Office of the Assistant Director for Biological Sciences at NSF, where she served as senior adviser for strategic planning, policy and analysis. After completing a two-year rotation as division director of the MCB Division in 2009, she served as the acting executive officer for the BIO Directorate until June 2011. After being accepted as a member of the Federal Senior Executive Service in June 2011, she served as Deputy Assistant Director and Acting Assistant Director for the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. In December 2014, she became the head of the Office of Information Resources and Management for the agency.

On January 9, 2018, Tornow was appointed to serve as Acting Assistant Director for the BIO Directorate at NSF while a nationwide search was underway. She was selected as the Assistant Director for the Biological Sciences at NSF in February 2019.