Laurie Leshin Will Be the First Women to Direct the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Laurie Leshin has been appointed director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. She will also serve as vice president of the California Institute of Technology. When, she takes office on May 16, she will be the first woman to lead the institution.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a federally-funded research and development center managed by the Califoria Institute of Technology for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. With origins in the 1930s the laboratory developed jet engines for the U.S. Army and later rocket engines and guidance systems. When NASA was formed in 1958, JPL was placed under its direction.

Since 2014, Dr. Leshin has served as president of Worcester Poytehcnic Institute in Massachusetts. She is the only woman to lead the university in its more than 150-year history.

“I am both thrilled and humbled to be appointed the director of JPL. In many ways, this feels like a homecoming. Some of the most impactful experiences of my career have taken place on the Caltech campus and at JPL – lessons learned and goals achieved that have shaped me as a leader and a space scientist. The opportunity to return to working closely with so many colleagues across Caltech – at the Lab and on campus – and at NASA is a dream come true,” Dr. Leshin said.

“We have enormous opportunities ahead to leverage JPL’s global leadership in robotic space exploration to answer awe-inspiring scientific questions and improve life here on Earth,” Dr. Leshin added. “I look forward to my work with Caltech and NASA to ensure that JPL continues to drive innovation across the global space ecosystem. Finally, I am especially honored to be the first woman to hold the title of director of JPL. I know from personal experience that diverse teams make greater impact, and I will work every day to ensure that JPL is a place where all belong and thrive. We will dare mighty things, together.”

Before being named president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Dr. Leshin was dean of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Earlier in her career, she served as director of science and exploration and deputy director at the Goddard Space Flight Center, a NASA facility in Greenbelt, Maryland. Before joining NASA, Dr. Leshin taught at Arizona State University and the University of California at Los Angeles.

Dr. Leshin is a graduate of Arizona State University, where she majored in chemistry. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in geochemistry from the California Institute of Technology. For her contributions to planetary science, the International Astronomical Union has named an asteroid in her honor.

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