Dr. Lori Glaze Portrait

Dr. Lori S. Glaze

Director, NASA's Planetary Science Division - NASA Headquarters

Dr. Lori Glaze is the Director of NASA's Science Mission Directorate’s Planetary Science Division. Planetary Science is focused on space flight missions and scientific research that address fundamental questions of solar system formation and evolution, including understanding planetary environments that can (or could have in the past) support life.

Before coming to NASA Headquarters, Dr. Glaze served as the chief of the Planetary Geology, Geophysics and Geochemistry Laboratory at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and as the Deputy Director of Goddard’s Solar System Exploration Division.

Her research interests include physical processes in terrestrial and planetary volcanology, atmospheric transport and diffusion processes, and geologic mass movements. Her work focuses on data analysis and theoretical modeling of surface processes on all the terrestrial solar system bodies, particularly the Earth, Venus, Mars, the Moon, and Io. She develops statistical, analytical, and data management methods in support of physical process modeling and develops applications of diverse sets of terrestrial and planetary remote sensing data.

Dr. Glaze was a member of the Inner Planets Panel for the 2013–2022 Decadal Survey (Visions and Voyages) and had a role on the Executive Committee of NASA's Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG) for several years, serving as the group's Chair from 2013–2017. Dr. Glaze was a member of the Planetary Science Subcommittee from 2011 to 2013.

She has been involved with many NASA-sponsored Venus mission concept formulation studies, including as a member of the Venus Flagship Science and Technology Definition Team (2009), as Science Champion for the Venus Mobile Explorer (2010), and Co-Science Champion for the Venus Intrepid Tessera Lander (2010). Until her move to Headquarters, she also was the Principal Investigator of the Deep Atmosphere Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI).

Dr. Glaze was born in Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas, Arlington with a B.A. and M.S. in Physics. She received a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. She has also previously worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and at Proxemy Research, as Vice President and Senior Research Scientist.

Q&A with Dr. Lori Glaze

JPL Director Mike Watkins and NASA Planetary Science Director Lori Glaze watching data from the Perseverance rover landing.
Dr. Glaze (right) monitors the descent of the Perseverance Mars rover with Dr. Mike Watkins (left).


Bowie High School, Arlington, Texas

University of Texas, Arlington: B.A. Physics

University of Texas, Arlington: M.S. Physics

Lancaster University, Lancaster, England: Ph.D. Environmental Science

What first sparked your interest in space and science?

The eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, was a pivotal event in my life. I was a sophomore in high school and living just outside of Seattle, Washington, at the time. The eruption impacted everyone living in the Pacific Northwest. The unrest at the volcano was in the news for many weeks leading up to the climactic eruption. I could actually hear the eruption itself on the morning of the 18th (although I heard it about 30 minutes afterward, as it took that long for the sound to travel). Subsequent eruptions in the summer of 1980 covered everything in ash. I was in awe of the incredible power of the eruption and the ability of volcanoes to both create and destroy a landscape. The eruption drew me to study volcanoes in college and eventually to pursue a career focused on volcanism throughout the solar system.

How did you end up working in the space program?

In the mid-1980s, the idea of using satellite data to study volcanic eruptions was still relatively novel. My graduate research used images from weather satellites to study the transport of ash clouds from several eruptions (including Mount St. Helens). From that work, I was very lucky to get my first job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where I worked on a project to develop a mission concept for an orbiting volcano observatory. After only a few months at JPL, the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Neptune. It was amazing! I was drawn to planetary science where (at that time) all science was conducted using remote sensing satellite data! I have been fortunate to spend my entire career working in space science and have had the pleasure of working at JPL, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and for a private science research company that I helped manage.

Tell us about your job. What do you do?

As the director of the Planetary Science Division (PSD) of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, I oversee all of NASA's flight missions and science research that is focused on ascertaining the content, origin, and evolution of the solar system and the potential for life elsewhere. In addition to the incredible science that PSD enables, we also lead many activities related to Planetary Defense, both to prevent Near-Earth Object (NEO) impacts on Earth and to identify NEOs that pose potential threats to Earth.

What's one piece of advice you would give to others interested in a similar career?

The one piece of advice that I would give is to follow your passion. If you do what you love, you will love what you do! A big part of that advice is to always keep your eyes open for new opportunities to learn and grow, and don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. By increasing your knowledge and expertise in areas you are interested in, you set the stage for having a unique combination of skills that are perfectly suited to the career you choose.

Who inspires you?

My mother was an incredible inspiration for me. She was an aeronautical engineer in the early 1960s when women were extremely rare in that field (less than 1% of the workforce). In addition to a successful career designing airplanes for the Navy and for Boeing (including a short time working on the Space Shuttle) she also raised two kids as a single mom. She raced sailboats and motorcycles, and she loved to spend time with my brother and me. She was an amazing role model as a woman, a professional, and a mom. I have always aspired to carry on in her footsteps. She was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1998, and again her strength and determination were extraordinary. After fighting a heroic battle with incredible determination she finally succumbed in 1999. I miss her greatly.

Lori Glaze's mother at the helm of a sailboat.
Lori's mom at the helm of a sailboat.
Courtesy Lori Glaze

What are some fun facts about yourself?

Some fun facts are that I am married to my high school sweetheart (we went to senior prom together), and he was the original lead singer of the heavy metal band, Pantera. Following Pantera, he was in the band Lord Tracy, which had a couple of videos on MTV (back when they showed music videos). He is still an active professional musician. I love watching him perform and always have music and art in our home. I also really enjoy sewing, needlework, and knitting. When my two daughters were growing up, I devoted much time to sewing ballet costumes for the professional ballet company where they took classes and performed.

Lori Glaze and her future husband sitting together at a piano at their senior prom.
Lori and her husband, Terry, at their high school prom.
Courtesy Lori Glaze