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Brown Alumna Ellen Stofan to Head National Air and Space Museum

April 6, 2018

Ellen Stofan, a former chief scientist at NASA who earned her Ph.D. in geology from Brown in 1989, will be the first woman to lead what is one of the world’s most widely visited museums.

As the John and Adrienne Mars Director, Stofan will take the helm of one of the world’s most popular museums with more than 8 million visitors annually. She’ll assume the post on April 30.

“Ellen’s scientific background, leadership skills, communication acumen and strategic thinking have positioned her superbly to lead the National Air and Space Museum,” Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton said in announcing Stofan’s appointment on April 5. “Her passion for science coupled with her love of education will ensure that the museum will continue to be a global treasure and world leader through its extensive programming, exhibitions and scholarship.”

Stofan has more than 25 years of experience in space-related organizations, including her tenure as NASA chief scientist from 2013 to 2016. In that role, she served as chief advisor to the NASA administrator on science programs and science-related strategic planning and investments.

As a Ph.D. student in planetary geosciences at Brown, Stofan developed several key insights into the geology of Venus, working with scientists from the Soviet Union to analyze data from the Soviet Venera missions. After earning her doctorate from Brown in 1989, she went straight to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There, she served as deputy project scientist for the Magellan mission, which successfully mapped 98 percent of the Venusian surface.

Read more of Kevin Stacey's article on Ellen Stofan.