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Senior NASA Scientist Joins Rensselaer as New Dean of the School of Science

Tue, 2011-07-26 11:23 -- Anonymous

July 26, 2011

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Dr. Laurie Leshin, deputy associate administrator of exploration systems for NASA (photo courtesy of NASA)
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Dr. Laurie Leshin, deputy associate administrator of exploration systems for NASA (photo courtesy of NASA)
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Laurie Leshin, deputy associate administrator of exploration systems for NASA, will join Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as dean of the School of Science. Leshin will bring experience as a leader, educator, researcher, and administrator to leadership of the school.

“As a member of the NASA leadership team, Dr. Leshin has played an integral role in the success of the largest and most important scientific endeavors in space exploration,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “From her work with the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory rover to her efforts in crafting a new future for space exploration following the retirement of the shuttle program, she has been a scientific leader for this country. I look forward to her joining and leading our growing community of scientists as we continue to build on our success in science and research under the priorities of The Rensselaer Plan.”

She joins Rensselaer on October 1. She will take over the leadership position from Professor of Computer Science David Spooner, who has served as acting dean of science since 2008.

“I am excited to join Rensselaer at a time of great opportunity for the School of Science,” Leshin said.  “I hope that our work together within the school, making transformative discoveries, shaping new interdisciplinary fields, and training the next generation of scientists, will propel Rensselaer to even greater heights.”

Leshin joined NASA in 2005 as director of science and exploration at the Goddard Space Flight Center. As head of the largest science organization within NASA, she was responsible for the strategic management and organization of 550 scholars and support staff in fields ranging from high-energy astrophysics to climate change.

Leshin became the deputy associate administrator for exploration systems at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., in 2010. The Exploration System Mission Directorate is responsible for future NASA human spaceflight activities. This includes the development of commercial capabilities for low Earth orbit transport and new technologies to ferry humans to destinations deeper in the universe, such as asteroids and Mars.  Her work involved daily oversight and planning for the implementation of the largest proposed shift in human spaceflight activities since the end of the Apollo program.

Prior to joining NASA, Leshin was a scientist and professor at Arizona State University, beginning in 1998. Her research focused on cosmo-chemistry, including the origin of the solar system, water on Mars, and astrobiology. She was honored in 2001 for her research by being named the Dee and John Whiteman Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences. She would go on to help lead the development of the first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary School of Earth and Space Exploration at the university.

 Leshin received the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal in 2004. She served on the Board of Directors of Women in Aerospace and is currently a member of the Council of the American Geophysical Union. The International Astronomical Union has recognized her contributions to planetary science by naming asteroid 4922, Leshin.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Arizona State University and her master’s degree and doctorate in geochemistry from the California Institute of Technology. Leshin began her academic career as a postdoctoral research fellow and later the W.W. Rubey Faculty Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles. During that time, she received the Nier Prize from the Meteoritical Society, which is awarded for outstanding research by a young scientist.

The Rensselaer School of Science leads in the creation and dissemination of scientific knowledge that will be the core of tomorrow’s technology. The school prepares students for a wide variety of careers in the firmly established areas of mathematics and natural sciences while forging ahead to develop excellent new programs in emerging fields such as web science, bioinformatics, and molecular biology. Strong, interdisciplinary centers for research in astrobiology, nanotechnology, biotechnology, terahertz research, fresh water ecology, web science, and polymer science are leading the way in the development of science that will change our society and the world.

Contact: Gabrielle DeMarco
Phone: (518) 276-6542
E-mail: demarg@rpi.edu