The Space Science and Astrobiology Division has a long and successful history of stewarding promising young scientists through their post-doctoral experience. A post-doctoral fellowship at NASA Ames provides not only a creative and stimulating research environment but also the opportunity to interact with ongoing and future missions, and to interface with the diverse scientific and technological expertise at Ames. The high standing of Ames scientists in their fields has allowed them to serve as valuable mentors and to provide contacts leading Fellows to productive careers as next-generation leaders in Space and Earth science disciplines both within NASA and in the academic community.
The NASA Post-Doctoral Program (NPP) offers an opportunity for NASA to lure in the ‘best of the best’ is exemplified by the myriad past graduates from the (then NRC) post-doctoral program at Ames who have since become NASA civil servant space scientists, both at other Centers and at NASA Ames. Such Ames alumni include well known astrobiologist Chris McKay, AAAS fellow Louis Allamandola, Stardust mission Co-I Scott Sandford, Interdisciplinary Scientist for Rings and Dust for the Cassini mission Jeff Cuzzi, Ames NAI team P.I. and MER scientist Dave Des Marais, Mars GCM guru Robert Haberle, Kevin Zahnle, Tom Greene, Ted Roush, LCROSS mission P.I. Tony Colaprete, and Diane Wooden. In addition, NASA Ames managers and alumni have come from the ranks of the NRC post-doctoral program: Michael Bicay (Director of Science at Ames), Michael New (Discovery Program Scientist at HQ), and Doug Hudgins (Spitzer Program Scientist at HQ). It is our intention to continue this rich tradition to help replenish the Agency’s aging workforce.
Similarly, past Ames NRC postdocs have become eminent academic community leaders, including David Black (President of USRA), Pam Matson (Dean of Earth Sciences, Stanford), Jim Kasting (Penn State), Alan Boss (Carnegie), Brian Toon (Colorado), Steve Squyres (Cornell), Chris Chyba (Princeton) and Greg Laughlin (UCSC). To date, three of our NRCs have gone on to win the American Astronomical Society/Division of Planetary Sciences Urey prize, based partly on work done at Ames. Our connections with nearby universities (Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, San Jose State, and Santa Clara University) will continue to provide an important additional benefit to Ames NPP Fellows.
In just the past year our NPP program has produced such young up-and-coming scientists such as Jennifer Heldmann who is Observation Campaign Coordinator on the LCROSS mission, Andrew Mattioda, who’s work on lab astrophysics was featured in chemical and engineering news, and Jonathan Fortney who recently won one of NASA’s coveted Carl Sagan early career scientist awards, and a Spitzer Fellowship.
The Space Science and Astrobiology Division at NASA Ames will continue its tradition of using the Fellowships as an important educational experience and a training ground to provide future leaders for NASA and the academic community. More information about the NASA Post-Doctoral Program can be found at the ORAU postdoc web page and also you can read our ‘implementation plan’ – the document that we wrote for NASA H.Q. describing the program here at NASA Ames.