K. L. Olsen, Ph.D. is the founder and managing director of ScienceWorks, a consulting firm that helps people and organizations succeed in science and engineering research. Recognizing the worldwide importance of these fields, ScienceWorks is dedicated to the use of science and technology research as the foundation for innovation, quality of life, and economic vitality.
Dr. Olsen served over 20 years in the federal government in a variety scientific leadership positions. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in August 2005. As such, she was responsible for the day-to-day management and oversight of program creation and administration; national and international collaborations; merit review processes; strategic and long-term planning and performance; budget development, implementation and reporting; personnel; and operations. Upon resigning her appointment as Deputy, Dr. Olsen resumed her career SES status at NSF as Senior Advisor to the Chief Human Capital Officer. In this position she advised the Chief Human Capital Officer and NSF senior management on opportunities for NSF-wide management improvement in areas such as strengthening merit review and interdisciplinary research processes, workforce planning, Program Officer training and development, and succession planning.
Dr. Olsen joined NSF from the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the Executive Office of the President where, since 2002, she had been the Associate Director and Deputy Director for Science. Her responsibilities included overseeing national and international science and education policy development and federal agency program coordination for the physical sciences, life sciences, environmental science, behavioral and social sciences and education.
Prior to OSTP, Dr. Olsen served as Chief Scientist for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (May 1999-April 2002) and the Acting Associate Administrator for Biological and Physical Research (July 2000-March 2002). As Chief Scientist, she served as the Administrator’s senior scientific advisor, principal advisor on budget content of the scientific programs and principal interface with the national and international scientific community. As Acting Associate Administrator during the formulation of the new Enterprise for Biological and Physical Research, she oversaw budget development and implementation, recruitment and development of professional and support staff and strategic planning.
Dr. Olsen was recruited to NASA from the NSF, where since 1997 she had been Senior Staff Associate for the Science and Technology Centers in the Office of Integrative Activities. From February 1996 until November 1997, she was a Legislative Fellow and detailee from NSF on Capitol Hill. Between 1984 and 1996, she served NSF in a variety of administrative and scientific leadership positions.
At various times in her early professional career, Dr. Olsen also served as a Research Scientist at the State University of New York – Stony Brook’s Long Island Research Institute and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the Medical School, as well as Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology at the George Washington University.
Prior to founding ScienceWorks, Dr. Olsen served as the Vice President, International Programs at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), a non-profit organization and the nation’s oldest higher education association.
Dr. Olsen earned a B.S. in Biology and Psychology with honors from Chatham College and Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of California, Irvine. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Neuroscience at Children’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School. The National Institutes of Health supported her research on neural and genetic mechanisms underlying development and expression of behavior.
Dr. Olsen holds numerous awards from foreign entities, government agencies, institutions and scientific societies. These include the Norwegian Royal Order of Merit; NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal; the NSF Director’s Award of Excellence; awards for outstanding contributions from the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society and the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology; the Barry M. Goldwater Educator Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics: National Capital Section; the University of California, Irvine Lauds and Laurels Distinguished Alumna Award; and the Barnard College Medal of Distinction. She is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association for Women in Science, and an elected member of the Explorers Club and Cosmos Club. She has been awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Chatham College, Clarkson University, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and the University of South Carolina.
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