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Staff Directory

Sylvia M. Butterfield

(703) 292-5333
(703) 292-9044
C 13004
Acting Assistant Director
Deputy Assistant Director


Dr. Sylvia M. (James) Butterfield is currently the acting assistant director for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE), which support basic research on people and society. The SBE sciences focus on human behavior and social organizations and how social, economic, political, cultural and environmental forces affect the lives of people throughout their lifespan and how people in turn shape those forces.

Her permanent appointment is as the NSF deputy assistant director for the Directorate for STEM Education (EDU), which supports curiosity-driven and use-inspired research to enhance learning and teaching, as well as comprehensive efforts to achieve excellence in U.S. science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. As the deputy assistant director, she oversees aspects of directorate program development, staffing, performance management and internal and external communications. During her tenure of more than 20 years at NSF, Butterfield has served in numerous leadership roles in programs and administration. She recently completed a 12-month appointment as the acting EDU assistant director, providing oversight for the directorate’s $1.11 billion dollar budget and extensive portfolio of investments in foundational and use-inspired research.

Dr. Butterfield previously served as the co-chair of the National Science and Technology Council Federal Coordination in STEM subcommittee and the co-chair of the Interagency Working Group on Inclusion in STEM, Broadening Participation Interagency Working Group, and was a member of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Student Science Enrichment Program Advisory Committee from 2012-2016. Dr. Butterfield is the author of multiple science education publications and journal articles, as well as children’s science books. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Loyola University in Maryland, a Master of Science degree from the Johns Hopkins University and a Doctorate in Science Education from Morgan State University.&nbsp