NSF News

NSF appoints new special assistant to the director for artificial intelligence

The U.S. National Science Foundation today announced the appointment of Tess deBlanc-Knowles to the position of special assistant to the director for artificial intelligence. In this position, she will serve as the lead in the Office of the Director for issues related to AI and NSF's implementation of the recent Executive Order on AI and serve as a member of the NSF leadership team. She will work across the agency to facilitate collaboration on AI initiatives and enable it to productively engage with ongoing national processes around AI. DeBlanc-Knowles will also retain her position in NSF’s Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships, where she serves as Strategic Advisor for Technology Policy and Strategy.

"Tess deBlanc-Knowles is a recognized leader with expertise that is critical to coordinating the NSF’s efforts to continue advancing cutting-edge research that expands our understanding of AI," said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “I am thrilled that she will contribute her knowledge and experience in AI-related activities to represent the vast and comprehensive work NSF is leading to ensure safe, secure, and trustworthy AI for all.”

DeBlanc-Knowles recently concluded a more than two-year tour at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), where she served as senior policy advisor in the National AI Initiative Office. In that position, she led policy efforts to strengthen the nation's AI innovation ecosystem, including co-chairing the National AI Research Resource Task Force, overseeing the development of the National AI Research and Development Strategic Plan: 2023 Update and leading the process to craft the nation's first strategy to advance privacy-enhancing technologies. Before her time at OSTP, deBlanc-Knowles served as director for research and analysis at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. She has also spent time as chief of staff at the Atlantic Council, at U.S. Special Operations Command, and in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction.

"This is an exciting time for AI, and I am honored to be working with the NSF leadership team to help harness AI for good and support the Foundation's critical role in assisting our nation to realize AI's myriad benefits while mitigating its substantial risks," said deBlanc-Knowles.

DeBlanc-Knowles has a bachelor's degree in international and area studies from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in security studies from Georgetown University.

DeBlanc-Knowles's appointment began Dec. 12.