Editor's Note: The year 1996 was a big one for Richard Zare, the Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University. In May, he was elected chairman of the National Science Board (NSB), the governing body of the National Science Foundation. His six-year term as a committee member and two-year stint as head of the board both end in 1998. In the 10 months since his election, Zare, 57, has become known for his forward-looking, hands-on approach to science policy.

In mid-August of last year-three months after his election-he found himself in the glare of the media spotlight as a coauthor of the monumental paper describing the possibility of fossilized bacteria in a Martian meteorite (D.S. McKay et al., Science, 273:924-30, 1996). Zare's lab at Stanford developed the laser mass spectrometer that analyzed the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons-one of the four lines of possible evidence for bacterial life-found...

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