Cherry is a long-time Xfund supporter and has been an advisor since our inception. She is the Benjamin Peirce Professor of Technology and Public Policy in the John A. Paulson School of Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Professor of Physics in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Prior to that, Cherry was dean of SEAS from 2009 to 2015. Between 2015 to 2017, Cherry took a leave from Harvard to serve the Director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. She oversaw $5.5 billion of the Department’s competitive scientific research in the areas of advanced scientific computing, basic energy sciences, biological and environmental sciences, fusion energy sciences, high energy physics, and nuclear physics, as well as managed ten of the national laboratories.
She was a member of technical staff and held several executive positions at Bell Laboratories from 1978 to 2004 and was principal associate director for science and technology at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 2004 to 2009 before her appointment as Dean of Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), on July 1, 2009.
An experimentalist, Cherry is known for her scientific accomplishments using light scattering. She is also a leader in the study of soft condensed matter and complex fluids, hybrid materials that show properties of different phases of matter. Among other diverse topics in condensed matter physics, Cherry has studied semiconductors’ optical phenomena, nanostructures, phase transitions, and controlled self-assembly of optical materials.
Cherry was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1999, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, and to the National Academy of Engineering in 2002. She served as the president of the American Physical Society (APS) in 2009 and the Presidential Commission on the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling in 2010-2011. She has served on more than 80 national and international scientific advisory committees, governing boards, and National Research Council (NRC) panels.
In 1989, Cherry won the APS’s Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award for outstanding achievement by a woman physicist in the early years of her career, and in 2005 she was awarded APS’s George E. Pake Prize in recognition of outstanding work combining original research accomplishments with leadership and development in industry. In 2002, Discover Magazine named her one of the “50 Most Important Women in Science.” In 2014, she was selected by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to deliver the William D. Carey Lecture recognizing leadership in articulating public policy issues.
President Barack Obama awarded her the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2014. The medal is awarded to “leaders who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life and who have helped strengthen the Nation’s technological workforce.”
Cherry received her B.S. in 1973 and her Ph.D. in physics in 1978 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Born in Fort Riley, Kansas, and the daughter of a diplomat, Cherry lived in the United States, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, and Indonesia as a child. She has published more than 70 papers in peer-reviewed journals and holds two patents in near-field optical data storage and optical display technology.