The mission of the Exoplanet Exploration Program is threefold– to search for planets beyond our solar system, characterize them, and look for life among the stars. The scientists and engineers who work at NASA's exoplanet program work daily to make those goals a reality.

  • Gary Blackwood
    Gary Blackwood
    Program Manager
    Dr. Gary H. Blackwood is the Program Manager for the NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He earned his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from MIT. He has been an employee at JPL since 1988 and has worked on technology development for precision astronomical instruments and astrophysics missions including the Hubble Wide/Field Planetary Camera-2, the StarLight formation-flying interferometer, the Space Interferometry Mission and the Terrestrial Plan... more
  • Kendra Short
    Kendra Short
    Deputy Program Manager
    Kendra Short is the Deputy Program Manager for the NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Prior to this position, she served as a Payload Manager within the SWOT project, responsible for the delivery of over $50 million in instruments and subsystems. In her previous 28 years of professional experience at JPL, she has held a number of leadership positions in related science, technology, and project management across multiple Directorates (Earth Science, Astrophysics, Planetary... more
  • Karl Stapelfeldt
    Karl Stapelfeldt
    Program Chief Scientist
    Dr. Karl Stapelfeldt is the Chief Scientist for NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His research is focused on circumstellar disks, planet formation, exoplanets, and the design of future missions and instruments that could achieve major scientific advances in these areas. Dr. Stapelfeldt began his NASA career as a post-doctoral research fellow at JPL in 1993. As a JPL scientist from 1994 to 2011, he worked on the Hubble Space Telescope WFPC2 instrument, Spitzer Sp... more
  • Eric Mamjek
    Eric Mamajek
    Deputy Program Chief Scientist
    Dr. Eric E. Mamajek earned his B.S. in astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, an M.Sc. in physics from the University of New South Wales/ADFA, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Arizona. He was previously a Clay Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Associate Astronomer for the National Optical Astronomy Observatory at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, and Professor of Physics & Astronomy at University of Rochester, w... more
  • Nick Siegler
    Nick Siegler
    Program Chief Technologist, Technology Development Manager
    Dr. Nick Siegler is an astrophysicist and the Chief Technologist for NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program located at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. With collaborators from all over the country he helps identify and mature technologies needed to enable possible future NASA missions that will ultimately look for evidence of life on exoplanets. He has worked in a variety of systems engineering and project management roles for the last nine years. Prior to JPL, Dr. Sieg... more
  • Keith Warfield
    Keith Warfield
    Program Chief Engineer
    Keith Warfield is the Chief Engineer for the NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program (ExEP) and the Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission (HabEx) Study Office Manager. HabEx is one of four large mission studies funded by NASA as preparation for the coming 2020 Astrophysics Decadal Survey. Prior to his present roles, Mr. Warfield was the Study Office Manager overseeing the designs and concept development for two sub-billion dollar exoplanet direct-imaging mission studies (Exo-C an Exo-S). From 2006 to 2013, Mr. W... more
  • Anya Biferno
    Anya Biferno
    Exoplanet Communications Manager
    Anya Biferno is the Public Engagement Manager for NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program, coordinating communications activities across the theme of exoplanet science, missions, and technology development. She has been with ExEP since 2008. In addition to her communications role with ExEP, Ms. Biferno is the JPL Co-I on the Universe of Learning education cooperative agreement (PI-STScI). She has a BA in Global Politics from the California State University, Los Angeles and a Masters in Public... more
  • Chas Beichman
    Charles Beichman
    NExScI Executive Director
    Dr. Beichman has been a leader in infrared astronomy and exoplanet research for over 30 years. His primary scientific interests include the formation of solar type stars and debris disks around both young and mature stars (IRAS, Spitzer, Keck Interferometer, JWST), the detection and characterization of planets around young and mature stars (Palomar, SIM, Spitzer, JWST), and the study of brown dwarfs (2MASS, Keck, WISE, Spitzer, HST, JWST). He has been a member of science teams on a variety of sky surve... more
  • Rachel Akeson
    Rachel Akeson
    NExScI Manager
    Dr. Rachel Akeson is the Acting Manager for the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI), part of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program. She has been at NExScI, which is located at Caltech, for 19 years as a research scientist and specializes in using interferometry at many wavelengths to study the formation of stars and planets. Her previous roles include Keck Interferometer Project Scientist and NExScI Deputy Director.
  • Phil Willems
    Phil Willems
    LBTI Project Manager and S5 Activity Manager
    Dr. Phil Willems has been an employee at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory since June 2015. He is the Project Manager for the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer and the S5 Starshade Technology Development Activity Manager. Phil was previously the Project Manager for the NN-EXPLORE precision radial velocity spectrometer. Prior to joining JPL, he was a Senior Scientist on the LIGO gravitational wave detector and has also worked in the optical fiber telecommunications and med... more
  • John Callas
    John Callas
    NN-Explore Project Manager
    Dr. John L. Callas earned his B.S. in Engineering from Tufts University and his Sc.M. and Ph.D. in Physics from Brown University. He has been an employee at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1987. He has worked on advanced spacecraft propulsion, X-ray and gamma-ray instrumentation for astrophysics and several Mars missions beginning with Mars Observer and continuing with the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Project. He currently is the project manager for MER and recently accepted, as an additio... more
  • David Ardila
    David Ardila
    K2 Mission Manager
    Dr. David Ardila has worked in space astrophysics most of his professional career, as a scientist, instrument designer, and program manager. He earned his B.Sc. in Physics from the University of Los Andes (Bogota, Colombia), and his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from U.C. Berkeley. He worked in the development of high contrast imaging with the Hubble Space Telescope, to search for planets surrounding debris disks. As a scientist with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope he worked on the infrared spectrograph calibratio... more
  • Brendan Crill
    Brendan Crill
    Deputy Program Chief Technologist, Deputy Technology Manager
    Dr. Brendan P. Crill has worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2008 and joined the Exoplanet Exploration Program in 2016 as the Program’s Deputy Technology Development Manager. His science career began in cosmology, with an undergraduate degree from Brown University and a Ph.D. in physics from Caltech. He worked on developing instrumentation for measurements of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). His work on the receiver of the BOOMERANG ball... more
  • Mary Romejko
    Mary Romejko
    Program Business Manager
    Mary Romejko has been an employee of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1983. She has held positions with increasing levels of responsibility in Financial Controls and is currently the Program Business Manager Exoplanet Exploration Program Office. Ms. Romejko receives programmatic direction from the Exoplanet Exploration Program Office. In this capacity she is the primary business interface with other business organizations, both internally and externally. She leads the implementation and perfor... more
  • Ray Lemus
    Ray Lemus
    Program Business Administration Manager
    Ray Lemus earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and an MBA from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. He has been an employee at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1996. Early in his career, Mr. Lemus worked as a process engineer in Chevron’s largest refinery in the San Francisco Bay area, responsible for the technical performance of various fuel-oil plants. Subsequent to his MBA, he split his career primarily between contra... more
  • Bruce Nomoto
    Bruce Nomoto
    Program Resource Analyst
    Bruce Nomoto received his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration-Finance from California State University, Northridge. He started his employment with JPL in May 2016, working for the Exoplanet Exploration Program Management Office as a Program Resource Analyst. He has overall Program Office responsibility for implementation and performance of all program and project control activities (e.g. cost estimating, funding, resource planning and analysis, budgeting, reporting, accounting).
  • Jennifer Gregory
    Jennifer Gregory
    Business Administrator
    Jennifer Gregory has been employed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1998 and has provided administrative support to several departments throughout her career. Among these were Interferometry and Large Optics, the Space Interferometry Mission and JPL’s special program DOD activities. In 2015, Ms. Gregory eagerly joined the Exoplanet Exploration Program Office. She enjoys being a part of NASA’s vision and development of technology and missions that enable the search for life in th... more
  • Karla Miller
    Karla Miller
    Executive Staff Assistant
    Karla Miller has worked at JPL since 1993, first as a contractor, then becoming permanent in 1995. She has provided administrative support in several areas beginning with the Low Temperature Science & Engineering group, CHeX (Confined Helium Experiment) project, and the SESPD (Space Engineering & Science Program Division). She has worked in her present position for over 16 years, when it was called the “Origins” and “Navigator” Program Office. She is fascinated when pla... more
  • Rhonda Morgan
    Rhonda Morgan
    Standard Definitions and Evaluation Team Lead
    Dr. Rhonda Morgan is lead of the Standard Definitions and Evaluation Team for Yield Analysis as well as the Technologist for the Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission (HabEx) Study. Dr. Morgan joined ExEP in 2015. She has been at JPL since 2001, developing technologies for lightweight space telescopes and advanced observational instruments. She has worked on a variety of missions including the Starlight separated spacecraft interferometer, TPF-C, TPF-I, and DART. She was the metrology... more
  • Jeffery Webster
    Jeffery Webster
    Project Support Lead in the JPL Project Support Office
    Jeffery Webster has 33 years of experience in the aerospace industry, most recently at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. While a JPL Staff and Senior Systems Engineer, Mr. Webster served as a project planner and systems engineer on numerous JPL flight and ground-based programs and projects, and is currently a Project Support Lead in the JPL Project Support Office. Mr. Webster also serves as the SRB Review Manager for four JPL flight projects. He received a B.A. from Penn State... more
  • Stephen Watson
    Stephen Watson
    ExEP Mission Assurance Manager
    Stephen H. Watson has been at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1990 and joined he Exoplanet Exploration Program in 2016 as the Mission Assurance Manager. He is also currently the Mission Assurance Manager for NASA's Deep Space Network, and has been the Project Software Systems Engineer on the Juno mission to Jupiter since 2006. He has been involved in the development of numerous project-wide, flight, ground and instrument software systems. He began his career at JPL in image processing, sci... more
  • Randy Jackson
    Randal Jackson
    Web Studio Manager
    Randal Jackson is manager of the Web Studio at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which produces websites, visualizations and apps about Mars, Earth science, and NASA's search for life beyond our solar system. Prior to working for NASA, he was senior editor for science and technology at CNN.com, where he oversaw coverage of such stories as the Pathfinder mission to Mars, the deorbiting of the Mir space station, and the construction of the International Space Station. Randal majored in science journalis... more
  • Thalia Rivera
    Thalia Rivera
    Public Engagement Specialist
    Thalia Rivera is the Public Engagement Specialist for NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration program. She works on public engagement by coordinating and supporting outreach events such as “A Ticket to Explore JPL,” and by maintaining NASA’s presence at public events like San Diego Comic-Con, American Astronomical Society conferences, and the Intrepid Air and Space Festival. She also creates informative materials for distribution to the public. These events and materials help make the s... more
  • Liz Landau
    Elizabeth Landau
    Senior Storyteller
    Elizabeth Landau is the senior storyteller in the Web Studio at JPL. She leads the creation of multimedia content packages and writes in-depth articles for NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration and Solar System Exploration websites. She was previously JPL’s media relations specialist for astrophysics. Prior to joining NASA's JPL in 2014, Ms. Landau was a writer/producer at CNN Digital in Atlanta, Georgia, where she spearheaded the CNN Light Years science blog and covered space news extensively. She hol... more
  • Pat Brennan
    Pat Brennan
    Science Writer
    Pat Brennan is a science writer for NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program, and also for the NASA Sea Level Portal. He writes feature stories about exoplanet discoveries and helps develop a variety of public engagement content, from info-graphics to conference banner stands and even provided text for a recent exoplanet travel poster. Mr. Brennan joined JPL in 2015 after a 30-year career as a newspaper journalist. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arizona.
  • Jade Smith
    Jade Smith

    Project Schedule Analyst
    Jade Smith provides Project Schedule Analyst support to NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program. He began his career at Apple in 2006, where he learned the importance of providing exceptional customer service. In 2018, he joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a participant in the Business Operations Directorate’s Early Career Hire Rotational Program. This experience reinforced his desire to provide unparalleled customer service – now to those who use technology to explore the universe’s wonders. Jade holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and is a candidate for a Master of Business Administration, from the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.