President Barack Obama has nominated Yale biology professor Jo Handelsman to serve as associate director for science at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

In the lab, Handelsman is an acclaimed researcher on the genetics and chemistry of microbial communities. Beyond her work on microbiology, Handelsman is also national leader in improving science education and encouraging women and minorities to pursue careers in science, said deputy provost for science and technology Steve Girvin.

In 2011, Handelsman won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mentoring. If the Senate confirms Handelsman to the position, she will take a leave of absence from Yale to advise the president on science and science education on a full-time basis.

Girvin said the Provost’s office grants faculty one year of public service leave, while the Yale Corporation must approve a second.

“Yale will certainly grant a second year if the President of the United States asks for the services of the faculty member,” Girvin said.

Handelsman came to Yale in 2010 after 24 years  at the University of Wisconsin.