Newswise — The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering the nation’s most promising innovators in science and technology, today announced the election of Alfred Spector to its board of directors.

Spector is a visiting scholar at MIT and a senior advisor at Blackstone. Previously, he was the chief technology officer and head of engineering at Two Sigma Investments and, before that, vice president of research and special initiatives at Google. His career has led him from innovation in large-scale, networked computing systems to broad engineering and research leadership.

“Alfred’s work has been enormously influential in science, industry and education,” says Stephen Fantone, chair of the board of directors for the Hertz Foundation. “He is passionate about developing innovators with the skills to lead, collaborate, and think critically about ethics and impact. We’re honored to benefit from his expertise.”

As a Hertz Fellow himself, Spector shares with the entire Hertz community an unwavering commitment to applying his talents to the most pressing challenges facing our nation and world. He also brings to the board his own distinct view of the fellowship experience and the capacity to advocate for the particular needs of Hertz Fellows.

The Hertz Fellowship—the most prestigious doctoral fellowship program of its kind—is awarded to the nation’s most exceptional students in applied science, engineering and mathematics, providing the resources and lifelong support to accelerate their careers and amplify their research for ultimate impact.

“Alfred’s expertise in the complexity of data-driven decision making is essential to the development of principled leadership in science and technology,” says Robbee Baker Kosak, president of the Hertz Foundation. “I’m thrilled to have Alfred join the board, as we work together to amplify the foundation’s impact.”

Spector believes passionately in the impact of the freedom to innovate afforded by the Hertz Fellowship. In 2018, he and his wife, Rhonda, funded the Alfred Spector and Rhonda Kost Family Fellowship. He appreciates that the organization is small enough for his contribution to make a significant impact—but he also wants to see the organization scale.

Spector will begin his board term this month, along with four other new board members: Cheri Ackerman, co-founder and CEO, Concerto Biosciences; Steven B. Lipner, executive director, SAFECode; Max Mankin, co-founder and CTO, Modern Hydrogen; and Michael Schnall-Levin, CTO and founding scientist, 10x Genomics.

Interview with Alfred Spector

We sat down with Spector to learn more about his work and what he hopes to contribute to the organization.

What are you working on right now that’s most exciting to you?

Spector: I’m working with companies and societies to help them navigate the complexity of using data to make decisions, and I recently wrote about this for the Association for Computing Machinery. I’m enthusiastic about technology’s future, but data-driven techniques are now so powerful that we need to be thoughtful as to how we apply them. From ethics and economics to history and literature, a grounding in liberal arts education is increasingly essential to both education and the creation of teams that will make good decisions. It goes without saying that practitioners should also pay enormous attention to integrity, given the potential for harm.

Why is joining the board important to you?

Spector: I’m compelled by the opportunity to help the Hertz Foundation scale. We see many more qualified students than we can currently fund. Furthermore, the selection process is a complicated endeavor, so I’d like to see the foundation amortize that effort.

What unique insights or perspectives do you bring to the board?

Spector: I bring a breadth of experience in information technology—in academia, as an entrepreneur, in research leadership at IBM and Google, as a CTO in finance at Two Sigma, and now working with government and education. I’m creative and look forward to brainstorming ideas for growth with fellow board members.

Why is the Hertz Foundation important for the future of science and technology?

Spector: We need technical visionaries and leaders who are not just really good at what they do but have both the passion to apply it with meaningful impact and the breadth to do it thoughtfully and effectively.

What advice would you give to the newest class of Hertz Fellows?

Spector: Your careers will be long. Certainly, go for it now! But also have some perspective—you may have 50 or more years ahead of you to do great things. Allow time and serendipity to connect you with opportunities you cannot predict now. You are certain to invent important and powerful technologies, with uncertain impact on the world—you must bring significant perspective and a deep sense of responsibility to guide the use of these technologies.

About the Hertz Foundation

The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation identifies the nation’s most promising innovators in science and technology and empowers them to pursue solutions to our toughest challenges. Launched in 1963, the Hertz Fellowship is the most prestigious fellowship program in the U.S., fueling 1,280 leaders, disruptors and creators who apply their remarkable talents where they’re needed most — from our national security to the future of healthcare. Hertz Fellows hold over 3,000 patents, have founded more than 375 companies, and have received more than 200 major national and international awards, including two Nobel Prizes, 10 Breakthrough Prizes, the National Medal of Technology, the Fields Medal and the Turing Award.  Additionally, 52 are members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and 37 are fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Learn more at