Dr. Sylvia M. Butterfield

Deputy Assistant Director
National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for STEM Education (EDU)


Dr. Sylvia M. (James) Butterfield is the Deputy Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) 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 EDU Deputy Assistant Director, Dr. Butterfield oversees aspects of directorate program development, staffing, performance management, and internal and external communications. During her 21 years at NSF, she has held multiple leadership positions which align with her expertise in science education and broadening participation research and policy. She has appointed as the Acting Division Director of the Division of Human Resource Development (now the Division of Equity for Excellence in STEM), Acting Division Director and Acting Deputy Division of the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings, and Lead Program Director for the Informal Science Education (ISE), Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST), and After School Centers for Exploration and New Discovery (ASCEND) programs.  Most recently, she recently completed a 12-month appointment as the EDU Assistant Director, providing oversight for the directorate’s $1.11 billion dollar budget, 28 programs, and extensive portfolio of investments in foundational and use-inspired research. 
Dr. Butterfield previously served as the Co-Chair of the Federal Coordination in STEM Education Committee (FC-STEM) Interagency Working Group on Inclusion in STEM (IWGIS). She was also the Co-Chair of the FC-STEM Broadening Participation Interagency Working Group and Acting Co-Chair of FC-STEM (2018 and 2022). She was a member of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Student Science Enrichment Program (SSEP) Advisory Committee from 2012-2016. She has served as an education consultant for science education radio, youth publications, and museums. 
Dr. Butterfield is a member of the Federal Senior Executive Service and the author of multiple science education publications, journal articles, as well as children’s science books. Dr. Butterfield 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.