Leah Nichols, PhD


Leah Nichols is the Executive Director of George Mason University’s Institute for a Sustainable Earth (ISE), where she leads the ISE team in creating connections – locally, globally, and across disciplines – to put Mason’s research and scholarship into action in support of a sustainable world. Nichols came to Mason after 8 years at the National Science Foundation (NSF) where she served in integrative roles. She contributed extensively to the design and management of several of NSF’s agency-wide programs including: Growing Convergence Research; Coastlines and People; Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems; and Interdisciplinary Research in Hazards and Disasters. As the Executive Secretary for NSF’s Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education, she oversaw the development of the committee’s report titled Sustainable Urban Systems: Articulating a Long-Term Convergence Research Agenda. While at NSF, she also founded and led an interagency working group designed to integrate the social sciences throughout the US Global Change Research Program.

Nichols has a PhD from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley and a BS in environmental engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow placed at the NSF and a Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Academy of Sciences. She has published articles on the production of actionable knowledge in leading sustainability journals, including Nature Sustainability and Nature Climate Change, and contributed to the US Fourth National Climate Assessment. She also serves on the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability for Arlington Public Schools.

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