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President Clinton's former science and technology advisor, Thomas Kalil, takes up post at UC Berkeley
31 July 2001

By Robert Sanders, Media Relations

Berkeley - One of former President Clinton's key technology advisors, Thomas A. Kalil, took a similar post this month at the University of California, Berkeley, to help develop new research initiatives and increase UC Berkeley's role in shaping the national agenda.

Kalil served under Clinton for eight years, eventually becoming deputy assistant to the President for technology and economic policy and deputy director of the National Economic Council. He was the "point person" on a wide range of science, technology and telecommunications issues, including the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the Next Generation Internet, and efforts to expand funding for the physical sciences and engineering.

"For eight years, Tom was the center of the Internet revolution," said Eric Schmidt, chair of Google, Inc. and of Novell, Inc. "He convinced the U.S. government to use Internet e-mail, to put all its services online, and to leave the Internet alone to grow and prosper. Once done, he set out to fund and build Internet II through universities. Working for the government, he made the government work for the Internet. He's a wonderful addition to UC Berkeley."

As assistant to the chancellor for science and technology, Kalil will help faculty members develop research and education initiatives that respond to national priorities and that build strong partnerships with government agencies, the private sector and community-based organizations.

"The depth and breadth of Berkeley's excellence in research and teaching is amazing," Kalil said, "as is the strong commitment of the faculty, the students and administrators to public service."

Kalil, who arrived July 10, will primarily work with researchers in the two California Institutes for Science and Innovation in which UC Berkeley plays a lead role. The California Institute for Bioengineering, Biotechnology and Quantitative Biomedical Research, called QB3, and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) are innovative initiatives by Gov. Davis to help advance the state's scientific and economic prowess.

Kalil's interest in promoting the public interest dimensions of the Information Revolution dovetails with the intent of CITRIS - to create and harness information technology to tackle society's most critical needs. Kalil was instrumental in Clinton's efforts to connect school classrooms to the Internet, train teachers to use technology to improve student performance, make information technology accessible to people with disabilities and create digital libraries for math and science education.

With deep Silicon Valley connections, Kalil has worked with CEOs on initiatives such as NetDay and Clinton's efforts to bridge the "digital divide." He helped increase high-tech exports by over $30 billion by reforming Cold War era export controls on computers and telecommunications equipment and helped allocate the airwaves for new wireless services. Before joining Clinton, he was a trade specialist at the Washington offices of Dewey Ballantine, where he represented the Semiconductor Industry Association on U.S.-Japan trade issues, intellectual property rights and funding for advanced microelectronics research.

"It is a unique opportunity for UC Berkeley to have Tom Kalil work with us in the development of the new California Institutes," said Mary Beth Burnside, vice chancellor for research at UC Berkeley and a professor of cell and developmental biology. "His breadth of experience and perspective will be an invaluable resource. I look forward to working with him to get groups of faculty together to think and talk about new research directions and how we might best foster interdisciplinary research on the Berkeley campus."

"Tom's outstanding achievements in Washington demonstrate his remarkable ability to strengthen UC Berkeley's position in the world of higher education and to reinforce our pre-eminence as the most distinguished research university in the country," added Donald McQuade, vice chancellor for university relations and professor of English at UC Berkeley.

At UC Berkeley, Kalil hopes to educate scientists about how to ignite Congressional and public support for research.

"The biomedical research community really organized around the idea of doubling the NIH budget, and it worked," he said, referring to a successful Congressional effort to boost biomedical funding for the National Institutes of Health. "But we need to keep a balanced research portfolio, supporting research in the physical sciences, engineering and social sciences as well. Scientists have to do a better job of articulating what the potential outcomes of research will be, where the research may ultimately lead, so that Congress and the public will support it."

As NIH's budget increased dramatically, Kalil pushed for and got a 15 percent increase for the National Science Foundation in the fiscal year 2001 budget. He also helped Congress and the public understand the potential benefits of nanotechnology, resulting in more than a 50 percent increase in nanotechnology research and development funding in one year. Some of these gains are at risk in the current administration's budget, as Kalil wrote in recent op-ed pieces for the San Jose Mercury News and the Seattle Times.

Kalil believes UC Berkeley can play a prominent role in steering the national research agenda. He said he will seek out innovations bubbling up from campus laboratories, faculty and students that could be the foundations for future national research initiatives.

"In a world increasingly driven by deep technical issues, it is difficult for policy makers to make objective decisions in the best interests of all stakeholders. UC Berkeley and other research universities have a responsibility to help inform policy makers as best we can," said A. Richard Newton, dean of the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley. "To do this, we need resources to do the research that will help in making those decisions. Tom can play a key role in coupling us better into that give-and-take between research, education and policy."

Kalil, the son of professors Ronald and Katherine Kalil at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison, received a BA in political science and international economics from that university and completed graduate work at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the Internet Society and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He has relocated to the Bay Area with his wife and daughter.