Ellen Stofan has been named as the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the National Air and Space Museum. Dr. Stofan will begin her tenure at the museum April 30. She is currently consulting senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.
From 2013 to 2016, she was the Chief Scientist at NASA, serving as the principal advisor to former Administrator Charles Bolden on NASA’s strategic planning and programs. She helped guide the development of a long-range plan to get humans to Mars, and worked on strategies for NASA to support commercial activity in low Earth orbit as it transitions from the International Space Station to sending humans to the moon and Mars in the mid-2020s. She supported NASA’s overall science programs in heliophysics, Earth science, planetary science and astrophysics. She also worked with President Barack Obama’s science advisor and the National Science and Technology Council on science policy.
Before joining NASA, Dr. Stofan was Vice President and Senior Scientist at Proxemy Research (2000 to 2013), a consulting firm in the Washington area specializing in planetary research.
While finishing her doctoral degree, she joined the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) as a post-doctoral fellow and became the Deputy Project Scientist for the Magellan Mission to Venus. In 1994, she became JPL’s Chief Scientist for the New Millennium Program where she managed a team of about 100 scientists working on new technologies. The following year, she moved to London while continuing to work at JPL and was, and continues to be, an honorary professor at the University College London, where she conducted her own research and advised doctoral students. She returned to the U.S. in 2000.
Dr. Stofan currently serves as co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Council on the Future of Space Technologies. She has published extensively and received many awards and honors, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. She was named one of “CNN’s Extraordinary People of 2014.” She is co-author of the books Planetology: Unlocking the Secrets of the Solar System and Next Earth: What Our World Can Teach Us About Other Planets, both published by National Geographic.
Throughout her career, she has advocated strongly for the inclusion of underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and math, speaking to groups around the world about the importance of diversity in solving the world’s problems. She has used the idea of citizen scientists as part of STEM outreach, provided guidance to young scientists about communications, and advocated for stronger roles for women and other underrepresented groups in scientific fields.
Dr. Stofan earned her bachelor’s degree in geology at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The summer after her sophomore year, she did an internship at the Air and Space Museum in planetary science. She went on to earn her master’s and doctoral degrees at Brown University, both in geological sciences.