The nomination of professor of soil biogeochemistry Dr. Asmeret Berhe to the position of director of the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science took over four times as long as the average Biden DOE nominee in the administration’s first year. Berhe, an immigrant from Eritrea and one of few Black women in the United States in the geosciences, waited 380 days to receive confirmation from the U.S. Senate, while the average Biden DOE nominee’s process took 86 days. Berhe became the first person of color confirmed to lead the Office of Science at the DOE.

At the time of her nomination, organizations in the scientific community highlighted Berhe’s research in soil science, climate change, and political ecology as being consistent with the Biden Administration’s climate policy agenda. In addition to her research on climate change, Berhe’s efforts to advance diversity and inclusion in the sciences aligned with the Biden Administration’s initiatives to foster diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the federal workforce.

Critics of Berhe’s appointment claimed her nomination was driven by “identity politics,” a conservative talking point that has been used to deny the existence of discrimination and delegitimize qualified people of color, women, and others who are underrepresented in certain fields. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) opposed Berhe’s nomination, citing in his remarks an opinion piece from a physicist who called the movement to increase diversity in academia an “intrusion of ideology into science.”

Nomination Timeline

Right-Wing Attacks on Berhe


Stalled Confirmation


back to top