Rep. Rush Holt, an eight-term New Jersey Democrat whose supporters sometimes boasted “My congressman is a rocket scientist” on campaign bumper stickers, has been named chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Holt, 66, who points out he’s actually a physicist – he was assistant director of Princeton’s plasma physics laboratory before coming to Congress – will become chief executive of the 166-year-old scientific organization headquartered in Washington when his term ends in January. He did not seek reelection this year.
In the House, Holt has urged “thinking like a scientist” to his policy-making colleagues. Holt reflected on his time in office with host Andrea Seabrook in a recent DecodeDC podcast, saying “Scientists want the evidence first and consensus later. Politicians tend to look for consensus first, and look for the evidence to match.” During his eight terms in Congress, Holt advocated for more federal investment in research, development and education.
At AAAS, the world’s largest organization dedicated to general science, he’ll also serve as executive publisher of the journal Science and a family of related publications.
Holt has been a teacher and arms control expert at the State Department, but may have achieved his greatest fame when he bested the IBM supercomputer “Watson” on the television quiz show Jeopardy!
He succeeds Alan Leshner, a neuroscientist and psychologist who’s been CEO of the association since 2001.
Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.