Former JPL Employee Becomes First Woman Director of the National Air and Space Museum

Published : Monday, April 9, 2018 | 7:10 PM

While science is typically a male-dominated field, some women are changing that dynamic.

Starting April 30, former JPL staffer Dr. Ellen Stofan will direct the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian said Stofan is the first woman at the museum’s helm.

“Ellen’s scientific background, leadership skills, communication acumen and strategic thinking have positioned her superbly to lead the National Air and Space Museum,” said Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton in a press release. “Her passion for science coupled with her love of education will ensure that the museum will continue to be a global treasure and world leader through its extensive programming, exhibitions, and scholarship.”

Stofan has worked for JPL in several positions, including chief scientist for NASA’s New Millennium Program and deputy project scientist for the Magellan Mission to Venus.

She is currently a consulting senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Before that, she served as NASA’s Chief Scientist from 2013 to 2016 where she was the principal advisor to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the agency’s science programs and science-related strategic planning and investments.

She is also currently serving on the For the Bold Campaign Steering Committee and has been involved on William & Mary’s Foundation Board as a chair for a decade. As an alumnus, she received the university’s highest recognition—the Alumni Medallion—in February.

“It’s important to have women in leadership positions not just for their different perspectives and skill-sets, but for the inspiration,” Stofan told the Washington Post. “I’m looking at the 8-year-old girl who may see herself (in me) … so many jobs of the future are tied to technology. It’s not just important, it’s a necessity to attract women to the field.”

Stofan succeeds Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey as the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Air and Space Museum. He retired in January.








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