WASHINGTON—Luther Williams, a molecular biologist and former president of a predominantly black graduate research university, has been named senior science adviser to NSF Director Erich Bloch. Williams becomes the fourth scientist to hold the job since Bloch created the position five years ago.

Williams, 48, has spent the past 18 months at NIH, most recently as deputy director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. From 1984 to 1987 he was president of the 1,100-student Atlanta University, part of a consortium private schools that provide undergraduate, graduate, and professional education for a largely black student body. Previously, he was a professor and administrator at Atlanta, Purdue, and Washington universities. He received a Ph.D. in microbial physiology from Purdue University. in 1968.

Williams’s appointment is seen as a break with tradition at the foundation. He is only the second black scientist to hold a top-level position in NSF’s 38-year history....

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