Who's Who at NASA

NASA’s Chief Technologist Leads the Agency’s New Focus on Research and Innovation

Dr. Robert Braun began his NASA career at Langley Research Center in Virginia in 1987 after receiving a B.S in Aerospace Engineering from Penn State University. While at Langley, he worked on a number of advanced space systems concept and flight programs including the Mars Pathfinder, Mars Microbe, and Mars Surveyor 2001 projects. From 1998 to 2000, he managed the development of the Mars Sample Return Earth Entry Vehicle, and from 2000 to 2001, he served as the Deputy Program Manager and Chief Engineer for NASA's Intelligent Synthesis Environment Program.

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Dr. Adrian Ponce, Deputy Manager, Planetary Science Section, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Dr. Adrian Ponce joined JPL/NASA as a postdoctoral scholar in 2000 after receiving a Ph.D. in chemistry from Caltech. In 2002 he invented the Anthrax Smoke Detector, a device capable of detecting the presence of anthrax in less than fifteen minutes. He recently developed a new technology called Germinable Endospore Biodosimetry, which not only rapidly detects the presence of bacterial spores on spacecraft but also determines whether they are alive or dead. Dr. Ponce currently serves as Deputy Manager of NASA JPL’s Planetary Science Section, and heads up the Ponce Research Group, an interdisciplinary team made up of researchers from JPL and California Institute of Technology.

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Robert M. Lightfoot Jr., Director, Marshall Space Flight Center

Robert Lightfoot Jr. began his career with NASA in 1989 as a test engineer and program manager for the space shuttle engine technology testbed program and the Russian RD-180 engine testing program. In 2002 he was named director of the Propulsion Test Directorate at Stennis Space Center, and from 2003 to 2005 he played a key role in the space shuttle's return to flight effort as assistant administrator for the Space Shuttle Program in the Office of Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. In August 2009 he was named director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

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Mark Polansky, Astronaut, Johnson Space Center

Mark Polansky enjoyed a successful 14-year career as an Air Force fighter pilot before joining NASA as an aerospace engineer and research pilot in 1992. Selected as an astronaut candidate in April 1996, he has since flown three space shuttle missions to the International Space Station, piloting the space shuttle Atlantis in February 2001 (STS-98), and serving as commander aboard Discovery in December 2006 (STS-116), and Endeavour in July 2009 (STS-127).

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Dr. Gary Hunter, Intelligence Systems Hardware Lead and Technical Lead of Chemical Sensors, Sensors and Electronics Branch

Dr. Gary Hunter, who joined NASA in 1990, is an expert in the design, fabrication, and testing of sensors, especially chemical species gas sensors. In 1995 and 2005, he led the development of sensor systems that won R&D 100 awards, which recognizes the 100 most significant inventions or products of those years. Dr. Hunter currently serves as Intelligent Systems Hardware Lead, and Technical Lead of Chemical Sensors, for the Sensors and Electronics Branch at the NASA Glenn Research Center.

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Robert Romanofsky, Senior Scientist, Antenna and Optical Systems Branch

Dr. Robert Romanofsky has over 75 publications and holds five patents in the fields of microwave device technology, high-temperature superconductivity, and the use of thin ferroelectric films in microwave applications. A recipient of NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal, Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal, the Federal Executive Board “Wings of Excellence” award, and the Rotary National Stellar Space Award, he currently serves as senior engineer for the Antenna and Optical Systems Branch at the NASA Glenn Research Center where he works on advanced antenna systems designs.

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Dr. Luz Marina Calle, Lead Scientist and Principal Investigator, Corrosion Technology Laboratory, Kennedy Space Center

Dr. Luz Marina Calle earned her Ph.D. in chemistry from Ohio University and shortly thereafter became a professor of chemistry at Randolph College in Virginia. In 1989, she was selected to participate in NASA’s Summer Faculty Fellowship program at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Her summer work at KSC continued for a decade while performing her duties as professor and chair of the chemistry department at Randoph College. In 2000, Dr. Calle joined NASA permanently. She now leads NASA’s Corrosion Technology Laboratory at KSC.

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