As the National Air and Space Museum’s interim director, I am pleased to introduce to all of you Dr. Ellen Stofan, the Museum’s new director and a leader who has the experience and passion to guide the Museum into the future. The importance of a strong leader while an organization undergoes change cannot be over stated, and I am confident in Dr. Stofan’s ability to take us into a bold, transformative new chapter.
While we embark on our mission to reimagine America’s favorite museum, Ellen’s leadership skills, passion for science, and deep ties to the aerospace community will help make our vision a reality. From 2013 to 2016, Ellen was NASA’s Chief Scientist, where, among many other innovative projects, she helped develop a long-range plan to get humans to Mars. She supported NASA’s science programs in everything from astrophysics to Earth and planetary science and collaborated on science policy with the National Science and Technology Council and as President Barack Obama’s science advisor.
Before serving as Chief Scientist, Ellen was a post-doctoral fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she was Chief Scientist for the New Millennium Program, leading the way on the development of new technology.
Over the course of her career, Ellen has earned unparalleled respect and recognition from the science community and beyond. She is the current co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Council on the Future of Space Technologies. She also received of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. She’ll bring with her not only knowledge of the industry, but her own strengths as a researcher focusing on the geology of Venus, Mars, Saturn’s moon Titan, and Earth. (For any planetary scientists reading this, her favorite mission was Cassini.)
One of the many impressive qualities that Ellen brings to the Museum is her lifelong advocacy for diversity and education in STEM. Her commitment to serving underrepresented groups in science will help the Museum further inform, educate, and inspire the next generation of innovators and explorers. Ellen’s passion for sharing STEM with others is close to her own upbringing. Her father was a NASA rocket scientist and her mother was an elementary school science teacher. And from the first rocket launch she attended at Cape Canaveral at age 11, she was hooked.
When Dr. Stofan begins her tenure at the Museum on April 30, it will also be a return to the place where her distinguished career in science began. While she was a sophomore geology student at the College of William & Mary, she completed an internship with the Museum’s planetary science team. I speak for all of us at the National Air and Space Museum when I say, welcome back.