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New regent brings scientific expertise to board

MARCO RODRIGUEZ | Evergreen reporter

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has appointed Lura J. Powell, a doctor of science with years of experience in U.S. institutions for research and technology, to the WSU Board of Regents.

Powell was appointed on March 10 to fill the position recently vacated by Francois Forgette, a lawyer who served on the board since 2005. Both hail from the Tri-Cities area of Washington, where Powell is a long-time resident.

“She has big shoes to fill, but she will learn quickly,” said Connie Niva, who has served as chair of the board since 2003

Powell is the former director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a facility in Richland, Wash. overseen by the U.S. Department of Energy. From 2000 to 2002 she also served as the senior vice president of Battelle Pipeline Technologies, the company that operates the laboratory.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a doctorate in analytical chemistry from the University of Maryland and is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Niva said Powell’s expertise makes her valuable as a regent.

“Each regent comes from an area of occupation, so we bring different viewpoints,” she said. “Laura Powell is a scientist, which is very important due to the vast amount of research done at WSU.”

Powell’s resume includes numerous delegate positions in research and technology organizations. Among those titles are director of the Advanced Technology Program at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Washington State Life Sciences Discovery Fund Authority, chair of the Biotechnology Research Committee of the National Science and Technology Council, and president and CEO of Advanced Imaging Technologies.

She is also a former member of the Board of Directors of the Washington Technology Alliance, Avista Corp. and the Tri-City Development Council.

Powell said her interest in science began in the sixth grade when she chose a chemistry set over Barbie dolls.

Shortly after receiving her doctorate, Powell worked with a team of researchers who determined the correct atomic weight of the chemical element Thallium. She said that project was a highlight of her career.

Powell credits her husband as a source of continuing support for her endeavors, even when her positions are stressful and time-consuming.

“My husband encouraged me to go for it, and (he would) pick up the slack,” she said. “We worked in a partnership.”

Powell currently serves on the Tri-Cities Evolution Task Force; the Delta High School Catalyst Team, a STEM school; and the Tri-Cities Soroptimist Against Human Trafficking task force.

“I was involved in turning the Tri-Cities branch (of WSU) from a two-year school to a four-year school,” she said.

Powell said a suffering economy has negatively impacted universities across the country, a problem she hopes to help overcome during her tenure.

“It isn’t just happening to schools in our state,” she said. “Universities across the country are having to cut their budgets.”

She said one of her goals is to help students through tough times.

Student Regent Lindsey Schaffer has three months left in her tenure but said she looks forward to working with Powell.

“Anyone who looks at her resume can see that she will be a stellar addition to an already outstanding Board,” Shaffer said. “It has been a privilege to work with such a great board, and I think that Lura will bring excellent perspectives to current issues.”

Powell’s term will run through 2019.

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New regent brings scientific expertise to board