Leadership Team

The Office of the Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is responsible for directing and overseeing the nation’s space research program in Earth and space science. The Directorate engages the external and internal science community to define and prioritize science questions and seeks to expand the frontiers of four broad scientific pursuits: Earth Science, Planetary Science, Heliophysics, and Astrophysics.

Through a variety of robotic observatory and explorer craft, and through sponsored research, the Directorate provides virtual human access to the farthest reaches of space and time, as well as practical information about changes on our home planet.

Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator 

Portrait photo of Thomas Zurbuchen

As NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen is tasked with helping us answer some of humanity’s biggest questions: Where did we come from? Are we alone? How does the universe work? Dr. Zurbuchen is well versed in the practice of asking difficult questions that help us seek interconnected answers leading to real world impacts.


Sandra E. Connelly, Deputy Associate Administrator

Portrait photo of Sandra Connelly

Sandra Connelly is the Deputy Associate Administrator in the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD). She is responsible for assessing a portfolio of over 100 missions in formulation, development, and operations, for technical and cost effectiveness, quality, and performance. She coordinates program and project content with NASA’s other mission directorates and federal agencies with whom SMD partners.


Dr. Michael New, Deputy Associate Administrator for Research 

Photo portrait of Michael New

Dr. Michael New is the Deputy Associate Administrator for Research within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Principal responsibilities encompass: ensuring scientific quality and integrity of research processes, including oversight of SMD scientific competition processes for research awards and flight programs; representing SMD research goals, policies and programs inside and outside NASA; overseeing SMD’s relationship with the National Research Council; and managing Directorate-level coordination of suborbital-class flight programs.


Mayra Montrose, Acting Deputy Associate Administrator for Programs


Ms. Mayra Montrose is Acting Deputy Associate Administrator for Programs in the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) of NASA since December 16, 2019. Prior to this job, she served as Assistant Deputy Associate Administrator for Programs. From 2015 to 2018 she was Program Executive for Earth Science Flight Missions in SMD, where she managed five spaceflight projects: monitoring solar irradiance (TSIS-1 on ISS), methane and carbon (GeoCarb), polar radiant energy (PREFIRE), surface mineralogy and dust sources (EMIT) and plant health (ECOSTRESS).


Karen Flynn, Deputy Associate Administrator for Management 

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Karen Flynn is the Deputy Associate Administrator for Management, responsible for the formulation and execution of the Directorate’s $6+ billion budget, as well as the guidance and oversight of all strategic planning and policy development activities. She is also responsible for the provision of administrative support to the Directorate's approximately 150-person Headquarters organization.


Gregory Robinson, James Webb Program Director


Gregory L. Robinson is the Director for the James Webb Telescope Program in the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD). Previously, he was the Deputy Associate Administrator for Programs, responsible for assessing NASA programs as the projects and institutions for technical and cost effectiveness, quality, and performance.  He also coordinates program and project content with the other NASA Mission Directorates, and federal agencies in which SMD has partnerships.  SMD has a portfolio of 97 missions in formulation, development, and operations.


Dr. Eric Smith, James Webb Program Scientist


Dr. Eric Smith is the Program Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope Program at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. He also serves as the Astrophysics Division Chief Scientist. He works with the Webb Project during the observatory’s development to keep NASA Headquarters management and external partners, both international and intergovernmental, apprised of how the developing hardware measures up against costs, schedules, and science requirements.


Jeff Gramling, Mars Sample Return Program Director

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Mr. Gramling began his career at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in 1985, developing flight hardware simulators for the Hubble Space Telescope Project. In 2015 Mr. Gramling became Associate Director of Flight Projects for Earth Science Projects at Goddard, concurrently serving as Program Manager of the Earth Systematic Missions Program (ESMP). He returned to NASA in 2020, where he serves as the Director of the Mars Sample Return Program in the Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters.


Michael Seablom, Chief Technologist

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Michael Seablom is the Chief Technologist for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. He has the responsibility for surveying and assessing technology needs for the Heliophysics, Astrophysics, Earth Science, and Planetary Science Divisions, and is the primary liaison to the NASA Office of Chief Technologist and the Space Technology Mission Directorate.


Ellen Gersten, Chief of the Administration Branch

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Ellen Gertsen serves as the Chief of the Administration Branch in the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA Headquarters and as Executive Officer for SMD. Ms. Gertsen leads strategic efforts on behalf of the SMD Leadership Team and oversees the day-to-day operations of SMD, including personnel actions, contract management, space planning, and information technology.


Dr. Jens Feeley, Chief of Policy Branch


Dr. Jens Feeley serves as the Chief of the Policy Branch in the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA. He is a public policy expert with experience in a broad range of pursuits. Previously, he served as the deputy director for the Strategic Integration and Management Division, responsible for maintaining SMD’s working relationship with the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP), and for managing SMD’s small policy team. 


Holly Degn, Resource Management Division Director

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Holly Degn serves as the Director of the Resource Management Division within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD), responsible for formulation, justification, and execution of NASA’s more than $6 billion annual Science budget.



Division Directors

The SMD division directors play a significant role in support of NASA scientists both at Headquarters and at NASA centers, universities, institutes and partner agencies the world over.

John Lee, Joint Agency Satellite Division Director


John Lee is currently the Director of the Joint Agency Satellite Division (JASD) in the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA Headquarters. Mr. Lee previously held the Deputy Director position for a little over two years. In partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), JASD manages the development and launch of reimbursable satellite programs, projects, and instruments.


Dr. Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division Director


Dr. Paul Hertz was named Director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA in March 2012. He is responsible for the Agency's research programs and missions necessary to discover how the universe works, explore how the universe began and developed into its present form, and search for Earth-like planets.


Dr. Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division Director


Dr. Lori Glaze is the Planetary Science Division Director in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. Previously, she gained direct experience leading conceptualization and development of two planetary instruments and 12 spaceflight mission concepts. She has been an active NASA science researcher since 1990 with over 55 peer reviewed publications. Dr. Glaze has over 20 years of experience managing people, facilities, discretionary/strategic resources, and travel funds for both a private research company and within NASA.


Dr. Nicola Fox, Heliophysics Division Director


Nicola Fox is the Heliophysics Division Director in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. Heliophysics is not only vital to understanding Earth’s most important and life-sustaining star, but the study of key space phenomena and processes supports situational awareness to better protect astronauts, satellites, and robotic missions exploring the solar system and beyond.


Dr. Karen M. St. Germain, Earth Science Division Director

Photo of Karen M. St. Germain, PhD

Dr. St. Germain is the Division Director of the Earth Science Division, in the Science Mission Directorate at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Headquarters. She provides executive leadership, strategic direction, and overall management for the entire agency’s Earth Science portfolio, from technology development, applied science, research, mission implementation and operation.


Kristen J. Erickson, Science Engagement and Partnerships Division Director 


Selected in June 2014 as NASA's Director for Science Engagement and Partnerships, Ms. Erickson manages NASA’s Science Activation program, citizen science, external information technologies, and strategic communications for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.




Grey Hautaluoma, Senior Communications Official

Grey Hautaluoma’s nearly 30-year career includes wide experience in government and nonprofit communications. He has been with NASA since 2004 and currently serves as team lead for Science communications.