NASA Science: The Universe is Our Office

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) team, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, and guests at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory cheer as they receive confirmation of DART’s collision with asteroid Dimorphos on Sept. 26, 2022, in the world’s first planetary defense technology demonstration. Credit NASA/David C. Bowman | More about this image

NASA Science: The Universe is Our Office

NASA is leading the nation on a great journey of discovery – seeking new knowledge about Earth, our solar system, and beyond. Meet our people:

Bob Pappalardo

Bob Pappalardo

Bob is the project scientist for NASA's new Europa Clipper, the upcoming mission to investigate the habitability of Jupiter's icy moon Europa. "A project scientist is the lead scientist for a spacecraft mission, responsible for overseeing the scientific objectives and scientific quality of the mission."

Meet Bob


Swati Mohan

Swati Mohan

Swati helped land a rover on another planet during a pandemic. She's worked on the Mars Perseverance rover project since 2013 and served as the mission's guidance, navigation, and control operations lead at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Meet Swati


Eric Ianson

Eric Ianson

Eric is the deputy director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. He assists Dr. Lori Glaze, who's the director of planetary science, in managing missions from Mercury out to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

Meet Eric


Murthy Gudipati

Murthy Gudipati

Murthy is a co-investigator and investigation scientist on a Europa Clipper instrument called the SUrface Dust Analyzer (SUDA). He also works to understand how ice and organic matter evolve in the universe.

Meet Murthy


Richa Sirohi

Richa Sirohi

Richa is an engineer working on NASA's Psyche mission to the asteroid with the same name. She will also be supporting the NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) mission to measure Earth’s hazards and its changing ecosystems.

Meet Richa


LaShelle Spencer

LaShelle Spencer

LaShelle is the lead horticulturalist in the Space Crop Food Production Facility at Kennedy Space Center. They use her data to determine which plants are worthy to go to space.

Meet LaShelle


Dr. Alvin Smith

Alvin Smith

Dr. Smith manages the Planetary Protection Center of Excellence at JPL to make sure we preserve the science on our missions, and to make sure that we protect the Earth from any potential hazards in the samples we bring back from elsewhere in the solar system.

Meet Alvin


Georgina Goode

Georgina Goode

Georgina is the deputy director for the Communications and Education Directorate at JPL. She helps lead the team that covers digital news and media, public engagement, education, branding and design, and data visualizations.

Meet Georgina


Mamta Patel Nagaraja

Mamta watching the eclipse

Mamta is currently the deputy program scientist for space biology in NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences group. Previously, she led a science communications portfolio for NASA, and she also worked on the Space Shuttle Program.

Meet Mamta


Apurva Varia

Apurva in ZeroG

Apurva has worked for NASA for more than 19 years. He’s currently serving as Mission Operations Director for three NASA missions: Parker Solar Probe, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), and Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX). He says channel surfing led to his dream of becoming an astronaut, and he explains how being deaf has impacted that dream.

Meet Apurva


Josh Willis

Josh Willis

Josh is the project scientist for Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich and Jason-3. "What's most amazing is to work with this group of about 200 scientists and engineers all over the world, who look at the data to make sure the satellites are as accurate as possible. All that work allows us to say how much the global sea level is rising to within just a few millimeters."

Meet Josh


Joe Lazio

Joe Lazio

Joe wears "different hats" – including working to make NASA's Deep Space Network more productive scientifically. He's also the Project Scientist for the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE).

Meet Joe


  • Lindsay McLaurin

    As a public engagement lead, Lindsay's primary role is to share the importance of the missions with the public, to help inform and engage the widest audiences possible with NASA. Lindsay is also a foster parent and helps provide a safe and loving home for children in need.
  • Benjamin Hamlington: Scientist

    "One of my main responsibilities is leading the NASA Sea Level Change Science Team."
  • Alicia Joseph

    Alicia uses remote-sensing techniques to study soil moisture in various wavelengths, particularly through microwaves. This information is used to improve estimates of soil moisture in weather prediction models.
  • Reem Hannun: Assistant Research Scientist

    "I’m an atmospheric chemist, which means I study the composition and chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere."
  • Marlon Hernandez

    Marlon Hernandez is an Information & Configuration Management Engineer on NASA's Europa Clipper project. "In short, I like to think of myself as a project librarian."
  • Sam Howell

    "I am a project staff scientist on NASA’s Europa Clipper mission. I assist the project scientist and his deputies to support the science goal, and objectives of the mission."

10 People You Should Get to Know

1

Shonte Tucker - Systems Engineer

"Systems engineers keep an eye on the big picture, and help the various areas of a project understand the impact their decisions have on other areas."

2

Sue Smrekar – Scientist

"Research is my passion. I love trying to understand how planets work."

3

Heather Ann Bottom - Systems Engineer

"Follow your heart, and stay true to yourself. Work hard, and don’t give up on what is worth fighting for."

Kelly Fast

4

Kelly Fast – Planetary Defense Coordination Office

"My job is all about trying to find the asteroids before they find us."

5

Mamta Patel Nagaraja – Science Communications

When my older sister claimed she would one day be an astronaut, on the heels of Sally Ride's launch into space, I made the same claim. It turned out that she outgrew the crazy dream, and my desire only got stronger.”

6

Tracy Drain – Flight Systems Engineer

"The important thing about being a scientist or an engineer is learning how to think critically, learning how to be creative, learning problem solving, and learning how to learn."

7

Khanara Tauch Ellers – Engineer

"Never give up! Stay focused and work hard toward your dream! Don’t allow what happens in life to blur your focus."

8

Rosaly Lopes – Vulcanologist

“I saw my first volcano erupt, and that changed my mind forever. The active crater had a beautiful fire fountain spurting red lava about 30 to 50 feet up into the air. It was the most beautiful spectacle, and I was hooked on volcanoes from then on.”

9

Cinzia Zuffada – Associate Chief Scientist

"I am the JPL Associate Chief Scientist, working closely with the Chief Scientist on setting directions for science, informing and managing the laboratory's internal R&D programs."

10

Lindsay Hays – Program Officer and Deputy Program Scientist

"Talk to everybody you can about how they got to where they are, what their day-to-day work is like, what they love about their jobs, and what they don't like. It's remarkable what you'll find out about what opportunities there are."

Lindsay Hays