For the first time in the United States’ presidential history, the Biden-Harris transition team is the most diverse comprising over 20 eminent Indian Americans from different walks of life. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have formed several agency review teams, including a COVID task force, of highly talented professionals with profound domain knowledge and experience in various federal agencies to keep the ball rolling from day one following their oath-taking ceremony in January 2021.
Dr. Arun Majumdar, US Department of Energy
Dr. Arun Majumdar is one of the key Indian Americans in the upcoming Joe Biden administration. Former director of the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), he has been roped in as the volunteer lead of Joe Biden’s Agency Review Team for the Department of Energy. A scientist, engineer and professor, Dr. Majumdar is a distinguished alumnus of the University of California, Berkley; and IIT Bombay, India. In 2012, the Internet giant Google hired him to review and execute the Company’s energy strategy and initiatives. An eminent member of the National Academy of Engineering, he is known for his futuristic work in the fields of thermal management and waste heat recovery.
Dr. Celine Gounder, Biden’s Coronavirus Taskforce
Dr. Celine Gounder from New York is another prominent Indian American member of President-elect Joe Biden’s Coronavirus taskforce. Born to an Indian father, Raj Natarajan Gounder, an aerospace engineer from a village in Tamil Nadu, Dr. Celine is a practicing infectious disease specialist, epidemiologist, medical journalist, and assistant professor in the New York University Grossman School of Medicine. Dr. Celine, a molecular biology graduate of Princeton University, earned a Master of Science degree from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University Of Washington School Of Medicine. She is a co-founder of the International Health Group that calls for doctors to serve the underprivileged worldwide. She has worked with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Being a medical journalist, she has extensively written on various medical topics and public health issues in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and other media. In 2017, People’s Magazine features her among 25 Women Changing the World.
Kiran Ahuja, Office of Personnel Management
Among the Indian American women in the Biden presidential transition agency review team, Kiran Ahuja is volunteering to support transition over the US Office of Personnel Management. An India-born American lawyer and activist, Kiran Ahuja was the Chief of Staff to the Director of the Office of Personnel Management from 2015 to 2017. Once a lawyer with the Department of Justice, she founded the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, a nonprofit for South Asian Women’s civil rights. She led the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) for six years. Her unconditional work on health care for AAPI is a significant step towards eradicating the stigma against mental illness in communities of color.
Dr. Bhavya Lal, NASA
One of the key Indian-origin women in President-elect Biden’s agency review teams, Dr. Bhavya Lal is helping with transition over NASA in the upcoming US government. A leading researcher at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute for the White House Office of Science and Technology, she has leveraged her expertise in engineering and innovation related to space science, satellites, space nuclear energy, and space exploration. She has profusely authored articles for The Economist, National Geographic, Space News, and other prestigious publications. Her contributions to the domain of space got her selected as a Corresponding Member of the International Academy of Astronautics. A distinguished alumnus of MIT in nuclear engineering, Dr. Bhavya Lal has also served on the National Academy of Science committees.
Mala Adiga, Policy Director for First Lady
In a bid to keep his electoral promise to make the Indian American community represent itself in the cabinet, Joe Biden has appointed Indian-origin Mala Adiga as the policy director for the First Lady-elect Jill Biden. Adiga traces her roots in the Udupi district of Karnataka and is a relative of Arvind Adiga, who won the 2008 Man Booker Prize for his novel “The White Tiger”. An education policy expert, Indian American Mala Adiga has served the Biden Foundation as director for higher education and military families. It is Adiga who offered her services as a senior policy advisor for the Biden-Kamala campaign. She was a clerk for a Chicago law firm before she shot to fame during the Barack Obama presidential campaign in 2008. In the Obama administration, Mala Adiga worked as the deputy assistant secretary of State for Academy Programs and the director for human rights on the National Security staff. She was born in the US after her parents, Dr. Ramesh Adiga and Dr. Jaya Adiga, moved to the US from India in 1960. She currently resides in Illinois.
Puneet Talwar, US Department of State
Joe Biden’s agency review team for the US Department of State includes Puneet Talwar, an American diplomat of Indian origin. In the Obama administration, he served as the assistant secretary of State for Political Military Affairs. He also served as a chief advisor to the then Senator Joe Biden on foreign relations. Recognized as one of the 50 most powerful Democrats in foreign relations, Indian American Puneet Talwar served on the Policy Planning Staff of the US Department of State alongside assisting Joe Biden on the United States’ foreign relations with South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. He also served as a special assistance on the National Security Council from 2009 to 2014. He is a distinguished alumnus of Columbia University in international affairs.
Pav Singh, National Security Council
Among the prominent Indian Americans in the Biden-Kamala’s agency review teams, Pavneet Singh is volunteering to help with transition over the National Security Council (NSC) and the Office of Science and Technology. Alongside volunteering for President-elect Joe Biden, he is studying how complex data problems can be solved by machine learning and advanced analytics in various industries. He worked on the US-China and US-India economic relationships while serving the National Security Council’s lead director for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). In addition, he directed the economic policy for Barack Obama’s visit to India in 2015 and helmed the execution of the US-India CEO forum for some of the leading American and Indian CEOs. Prior to the White House, he worked with the World Bank. He studied masters in international relations at Georgetown University.
Seema Nanda, US Department of Labor
Indian American Seema Nanda is a key member of Joe Biden’s agency review teams, helping with transition over the US Department of Labor. A graduate of Boston College Law School and a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, she joined the Department of Labor in 2013 and served as the Deputy Chief of Staff and a senior counselor to Secretary Tom Perez. At the Department of Labor, Seema Nanda dealt with various issues, such as workforce development, immigration, fair pay, and employee engagement. Prior to joining the Department of Labor, Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. She is an eminent member on the board of directors of many nonprofits.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, Office of National Drug Control Policy
Among the 20 Indian Americans in President-elect Joe Biden’s agency review teams, Dr. Rahul Gupta will be heading the transition over the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He is the senior vice president and chief medical officer of March of Dimes. It was him who led West Virginia’s response to the 2014 water crisis. While serving as the state health officer for West Virginia, Dr. Rahul Gupta also helped the state mitigate the opioid crisis through a series of health initiatives.
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