Dr. Ursula Rick, Acting Chief of Policy Branch

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Dr. Ursula Rick has spent her career at the intersection of science and policy, with a drive to see useful science produced for decision-makers and to increase fruitful interactions between people in both sectors.  As the Acting Branch Chief of SMD’s Policy Branch, she and the team of Policy Analysts serve SMD’s broad policy needs, including communication with Congress and the Executive Office of the President, domestic and international partnerships, GAO and OIG audits, and a host of other policy areas.  Before becoming Acting Branch chief, she was a Sr. Policy Analyst in the Branch and her portfolio included planetary protection policy, leadership on an OSTP interagency working group, management of NEPA policy for SMD missions, and SMD’s international strategy implementation.

Prior to joining NASA in 2019, Dr. Rick’s career was centered around energy, climate, and natural resource policy.  She was the Managing Director of Western Water Assessment (WWA), a NOAA Regional Integrates Sciences and Assessments Program at the University of Colorado Boulder.  She was responsible for the day-to-day management of the people, budget, and deliverables of WWA; maintaining relationships with external stakeholders in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming; and ensuring the data and information produced by WWA researchers was useful to decision-makers.  Before WWA, Dr. Rick was the Regulatory Affairs Manager at Western Energy Alliance, focusing on air and water regulations for the oil and natural gas industry.

Dr. Rick was the American Geoscience Institute/AAAS Congressional Fellow for 2010 – 2011, serving as a Legislative Aide in the office of Senator Mark Udall.  She was responsible for the Senator’s energy portfolio and covered legislation and issues related to renewable energy, the smart grid, oil and gas exploration, mining of critical minerals, and the wholesale power system.

Dr. Rick has a PhD in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences from the University of Colorado Boulder, where she modeled meltwater flow through the Greenland Ice Sheet.  She has an MS in Engineering Sciences from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College.  Her research there was done in partnership with the US Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab and involved measuring air permeability and microstructure of snow and firn in ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland.  These graduate projects gave Dr. Rick the opportunity to experience multiple field seasons in Alaska, Greenland and Antarctica, discovering a love for Earth’s polar landscapes.

Dr. Rick has a BS in Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI, where she enjoyed hiking and skiing around Lake Superior.