Path to Power
Holdren boasts a long resume of degrees, academic posts, awards, around 300 articles and papers, and about 20 books or book-length reports. He studied aerospace engineering and plasma physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-where he earned his BS and MS-and Stanford University, where he received his doctorate in 1970. Later that year, he became a physicist in the Theory Group of the Magnetic Fusion Energy Division of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
From 1972 to 1973, Holdren was on leave from Lawrence Livermore, working as a senior research fellow in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Environmental Quality Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. There, he began wrestling with problems of environmental change, and how it relates to population, development, energy and technology. These issues would come to rank among his key research interests. He also cultivated an expertise in nuclear arms control and non-proliferation. By 1981, he was named one of the first winners of the MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship, typically known as the MacArthur Genius Award. Holdren served as a member of the MacArthur Board of Trustees from 1991 to 2005.
With an impressive resume in the sciences and experience in policy development, Holdren has cultivated celebrated expertise in both of these areas, even as some of his critics suggest he tends to conflate them.
University of Colorado environmental studies Professor Roger A. Pielke Jr.-author of "The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics"-cited Holdren among a list of "stealth issue advocates" who dismiss policy counter-arguments as unscientific. According to Pielke and others, Holdren uses science as a mandate for political influence, even when his policy might stem from his ideological viewpoint rather than the lab.
Holdren reports to President Barack Obama, providing analysis and advice on science and technology issues in the United States and abroad. He also works closely with Dr. Harold Varmus and Dr. Eric Lander, who serve as co-Chairs of PCAST along with Holdren.