The Senate late last Wednesday confirmed by voice vote Tara O'Toole as undersecretary of the Homeland Security Department's Science and Technology Directorate.

Her nomination had been held up by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., over concerns about past lobbying work. But an aide to McCain said he would allow the nomination to go forward after she responded to questions.

"Dr. O'Toole is assuming her role at a critical time, as the H1N1 flu pandemic is spreading across the nation at an alarming rate," Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman said in a statement. "Dr. O'Toole brings a remarkable breadth of experience to this job that is so crucial to our nation's security. She is an inspired choice and I congratulate her on her confirmation."

O'Toole was director and chief executive of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Before founding the center in 2003, she was a member of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, serving as director from 2001 to 2003. Earlier, O'Toole was assistant secretary for environment safety and health at the Department of Energy.