Dr. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe is the Director of the Office of Science for the U.S. Department of Energy. Dr. Berhe was most recently a Professor of Soil Biogeochemistry; the Ted and Jan Falasco Chair in Earth Sciences and Geology; and Interim Associate Dean for Graduate Education at the University of California, Merced. Her research was at the intersection of soil science, global change science, and political ecology with an emphasis on how the soil system regulates the earth’s climate and the dynamic two-way relationship between the natural environment and human communities.
She previously served as the Chair of the US National Committee on Soil Science at the National Academies; was a Leadership board member for the Earth Science Women’s Network; and is currently a co-principal investigator in the ADVANCEGeo Partnership – a National Science Foundation funded effort to empower (geo)scientists to respond to and prevent harassment, discrimination, bullying and other exclusionary behaviors in research environments. Her scholarship on how physical processes such as erosion, fire, and changes in climate affect the biogeochemical cycling of essential elements in the earth system and her efforts to ensure equity and inclusion of people from all walks of life in the scientific enterprise have received numerous awards and honors. She is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America, and a member of the inaugural class of the US National Academies New Voices in Science, Engineering, and Medicine.
Berhe was born and raised in Asmara, Eritrea. She received a B.Sc. in Soil and Water Conservation from the University of Asmara, an M.Sc. in Political Ecology from Michigan State University, and a Ph.D. in Biogeochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. In 2020 she was named a Great Immigrant, Great American by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.