Dr. Amy Mainzer

Photo of Dr. Amy Mainzer

Dr. Amy Mainzer is a Professor in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona and one of the world's leading scientists in asteroid detection and planetary defense. As principal investigator of NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission, Mainzer has overseen the largest space-based asteroid-hunting project in history. She also served as the Deputy Project Scientist for the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. Dr. Mainzer’s research focuses on characterizing the populations of asteroids and comets through statistical measurements of their sizes, orbits, albedos, and rotational states; she also has studied brown dwarfs, ice giant planets, and star forming regions.

A Senior Research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) from 2003-2019, Dr. Mainzer specialized in astrophysical instrumentation and infrared astronomy. Previous to that she was a systems engineer at the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, where she was the lead engineer responsible for the design, construction, testing, and in-orbit checkout of the Spitzer Space Telescope’s fine guidance sensor. She also worked on the near-infrared camera for NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). Dr. Mainzer makes significant contributions in the realms of science education and public outreach. She serves as the curriculum advisor and on-camera host for the PBS Kids series Ready Jet Go!, a television show aimed at teaching space and Earth science to 3-8 year olds.

Dr. Mainzer received the NASA Exceptional Public Service medal for her work on near-Earth asteroids in 2018, as well as the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (2012), NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal (2011), and NASA group achievement awards for her contributions to the Spitzer, WISE and NEOWISE missions. She is Chair of NASA’s Planetary Science Advisory Committee (PAC) and Vice Chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), the world’s largest professional society for planetary scientists.

Dr. Mainzer earned her Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.