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 Planet Finder. Since 2012 he has served as the Program Manager for the Exoplanet Exploration Program, managed by JPL for the Astrophysics Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate – NASA’s search for habitable worlds and for evidence of life beyond the solar system. Dr. Blackwood is responsible for managing the Program comprised of science, research and technology initiatives, mission studies, public engagement, and the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute. He received the JPL Magellan Award for exceptional leadership of the Exoplanet Program in 2015. In 2014, Dr. Blackwood received NASA’s Federal Acquisition Certificate for a Program/Project manager, establishing his credentials at the senior expert level and admitting him to the agency’s Professional Acquisition Community. 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 Space Telescope Science Teams, and the Terrestrial Planet Finder Coronagraph Mission Study. He left JPL in 2011 to become the Chief of the Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, before returning to JPL in 2016. He received his Ph.D. in astrophysics, with a graduate minor in planetary science, from Caltech in 1991, and a B.S.E. in mechanical and aerospace engineering and engineering physics from Princeton University in 1984. 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, where he worked with students on observational astronomy research related to the formation and evolution of exoplanetary systems and their host stars. Since starting at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in 2016, he has served as the Deputy Program Chief Scientist for the NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program, managed by JPL for the Astrophysics Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate. 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. Siegler held astronomy research positions at the University of Arizona as well as various operations management positions with subsidiaries of Unilever at various domestic and international locations. Dr. Siegler received his Ph.D. and Masters in astronomy from the University of Arizona, a master's in international business from the Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, and a bachelor's in chemical engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. 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. Warfield was the Lead Engineer for JPL’s Advance Projects Design Team (Team X) and has participated in over 200 concept studies including studies supporting the Astro2010 Decadal Survey. Before coming to Team X and mission concept development, Mr. Warfield worked in engineering roles on a number of JPL flight remote sensing instruments, as well as ground-based instrument development for high-energy physics experiments on the Stanford Accelerator. Mr. Warfield received a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and Applied Science from the California Institute of Technology. more
  • Anjali Tripathi
    Anjali Tripathi
    Science Ambassador
    Dr. Anjali Tripathi is an astrophysicist and the Science Ambassador for NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program. As the program’s lead science communicator, she works to make science accessible for all. Her research has explored how exoplanets form and lose their atmospheres. Connecting science to society, she previously led science and climate policy at the White House. She earned her Ph.D. and Master of Arts in astrophysics from Harvard, Master of Philosophy in astronomy from the University of Cambridge as a Marshall Scholar, and Bachelor of Science degree in physics from MIT.
  • Travis Schirner
    Travis Schirner
    Exoplanet Communications Manager
    Travis Schirner is the Universe Public Engagement Manager. In this role, he oversees JPL public engagement initiatives on Exoplanet Exploration, Astrophysics, and NASA's Universe of Learning. Prior to his current role, he was a public affairs officer in the United States Air Force, where he enjoyed stints as an assistant professor of Aerospace Studies at Loyola Marymount University and as a project officer at the Department of the Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office. In the latter, he had the pleasure of supporting blockbuster film and tv projects such as "First Man," "The Tomorrow War," and "Captain Marvel," among many others. He holds a B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), an M.B.A. from the Quantic School, and the rank of captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. 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 survey projects (with major responsibilities for IRAS, 2MASS and minor roles in ISO and Planck) and space instruments (IRAS, Spitzer/MIPS and JWST/NIRCAM). He currently leads the exoplanet program for the JWST NIRCam team. He is author or co-author on 246 refereed articles and first author on 42. more
  • Sean Carey
    Sean Carey
    NExScI Manager
    Dr. Sean Carey earned his PhD in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1995. He is currently manager of the Spitzer Science Center and task lead for the NEOCam Science Data Center at Caltech/IPAC. Previously he was a Senior Astronomer at Boston College and Geophysics Scholar and National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the Air Force Research Laboratory. He is an expert in the calibration of infrared telescopes and has received a NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal for his work on the IRAC instrument for the Spitzer Space Telescope. Dr. Carey has over 200 refereed publications covering research interests from massive star formation and the dense interstellar medium to the characterization of the TRAPPIST-1 exoplanets and mass measurements of planets using the technique of microlensing parallax. more
  • Kim Aaron
    Kim Aaron
    S5 Activity Manager
    Dr. Kim Aaron is leading the S5 activity to bring Starshade technology to Technology Readiness Level 5. He has been with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed by Caltech, since 1985 when he earned his doctorate from Caltech in aeronautics. During his career, he has been drawn to the early conceptual design phases of missions and is currently chief engineer for architecture and formulation in the Payload and Small Spacecraft Mechanical Engineering Section at JPL. He has been involved with Starshade since its inception as a mentor and subject-matter expert in precision space instrument structures, and has chaired several technology readiness assessment reviews for Starshade prior to becoming the S5 activity lead. One of his favorite past projects was leading the mechanical configuration work as the flight system architect for the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM), which progressed successfully though the preliminary design phase. After that, he was the group supervisor for the Structures and Configuration group in the same Mechanical Engineering Section at JPL. During his tenure at JPL, he has supported many projects, starting with Galileo in the late 1980s to, most recently, the REASON radar antennas and the magnetometer for Europa Clipper. In addition to his doctorate from Caltech, he also received a master’s degree in aeronautics from Caltech and a bachelor’s degree in engineering from McGill University, Montreal, Canada, in Honours Mechanical Engineering. more
  • David Ardila
    David Ardila
    NN-Explore Project Manager
    Dr. David Ardila is an expert in star and planet formation, with over 200 publications on this and other areas. He is an expert in spectrometer design, high contrast imaging, and general instrument architecture, both for Astrophysics and Earth Science missions. He has worked in the formulation of new missions for NASA, in roles including instrument scientist, capture lead, and system engineer. He was mission manager for NASA’s K2 mission, NASA-ESA liaison for the Herschel Space Telescope, and Calibration lead for Spitzer’s Infrared Spectrograph, among other positions. In addition to his role as NN-Explore Project Manager, he serves as Project Scientist for the Star-Planet Activity Research Cubesat (SPARCS). Dr. Ardila earned his B.Sci in Physics from the University of Los Andes, in Bogota, Colombia, a M.S. in Astronautical Engineering from the University of Southern California, and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from U.C. Berkeley (Go Bears!). 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 balloon-borne telescope, including bolometric detectors (one of which is on display in the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.) and the cryogenic system needed to keep them at 0.3 Kelvin, contributed to the understanding that we live in a spatially flat universe. He then worked on testing and selecting NASA’s bolometers delivered to the European Space Agency’s High Frequency Instrument (HFI) on Planck. He continued to work as the US HFI instrumental data analysis lead on the Planck. Exploiting the science data from BOOMERANG, Planck, SPIDER and the BICEP2/Keck ground-based CMB measurement led to work in the field of high-performance computing, and he participated on the SPHEREx Phase A as the science data pipeline lead. 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 performance of all cost and schedule control activities for JPL projects and tasks within the program. She is also responsible for managing all activities related to cost estimating, funding, task order management, subcontract management, IA management, accounting, and financial planning for all tasks within the program. Ms. Romejko received her MSLM in Leadership and Management from the University of La Verne and has excelled in positions that include Project Controls Manager, Project Resource Line Manager, Mars Helicopter Project Business Manager, Resource Analyst, and Business Administration Manager. Ms. Romejko is well versed in the business acumen at JPL and has extensive experience in the execution, implementation, analysis, and reporting of all cost and schedule activities in accordance with institutional business standards and processes. She has led multi-disciplinary teams and was responsible for team results on multifunctional and/or multidisciplinary projects and assignments, including performance standards, budget and schedule. She has been responsible, in each of her management roles, for establishing, promoting, and ensuring the use of best business practices in the implementation of project control functions for all projects and task-type activities within the respective directorates. 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 contracts and subcontracts. Mr. Lemus’s notable accomplishments were the foreign purchase of the two GRACE Spacecraft from Germany. He served as the manager of the Acquisition Planning and Compliance Section where he led a team of 115 subject matter experts, advisors and managers to completely rewrite and simplify JPL’s procurement rules without degradation in contract metrics and quality. Mr. Lemus also served as manager of the Contract Management Office and served as a team lead in the 2013 JPL Prime Contract negotiations with NASA in the renewal of the sponsoring agreement for the operation of the Lab. Mr. Lemus has served the Lab as a subject matter expert in contract, subcontract and task order formation and administration, Organizational Conflicts of Interest, Nondisclosure Agreements, Memoranda of Understanding, Cost Allowability, and JPL/Caltech policies and procedures. Since 2015, he has served as the Exoplanet Exploration Program Business Administration Manager, providing outstanding business solutions and administrative support to the operation of the program office. more
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    Austin Love
    Program Resource Analyst
    Austin Love graduated from Cal Poly Pomona University with a Bachelor of Science degree in international business with an emphasis and minor in finance. Upon graduating, Love began working at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works as an analyst in the Advanced Development Programs division and worked there for three years. He then came to JPL as a program resource analyst in the Interplanetary Network Directorate supporting the Deep Space Operations Center project. He later moved to the Astronomy and Physics Directorate and supported numerous projects such as the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) project, Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), Fundamental Physics, the Astronomy and Physics Program Office and JPL’s special program Department of Defense activities. Austin is now supporting the Exoplanet Exploration Program as a program resource analyst. more
  • Katherine Manvelyan
    Katherine Manvelyan
    Lead Project Schedule Analyst
    Katherine Manvelyan is the Lead Project Schedule Analyst for the Exoplanet Program office. She has been an employee at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2019. She started her career as a business analyst and worked as an intern while getting her B.S. in business management at CSLA. She has supported various projects including Sentinel-6, EMIT (Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation), and RIME (Radar for Icy Moon Exploration). She joined the Exoplanet Program office in 2023.
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    Angel Zhu

    Project Schedule Analyst (PSA)/Project Resource Analyst (PRA)
    Angel Zhu began her JPL journey in summer 2021 as an intern in section 2520 (Project Controls). She was an academic part-time on Europa Clipper during her junior and senior years at UCLA in project schedule analyst (PSA) and project resource analyst (PRA) roles. After graduating from UCLA, she was excited to join the Exoplanets team as a PRA/PSA and especially grateful to be working with such amazing team members!

  • 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 the universe.

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    Jennifer Blumberg
    Executive Staff Coordinator
    Jennifer Blumberg is currently the Executive Staff Coordinator for the Astronomy and Physics Directorate (APD). Previously, she was the APD staff assistant to the Chief Engineer, Chief Scientist, Chief Technologist, and Business Office. Since Jennifer has been an employee at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2002, she has held administrative roles throughout the Astronomy and Physics Directorate as an Administrative Assistant to National Security Program Office, Project Administrative Assistant to the AMD Program, Administrative Assistant to the WISE Project from extended Phase A until Phase E post launch, and the Administrative Assistant to the Spitzer Space Telescope Phase C through Phase E post launch. 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.
  • Chelsea Gohd
    Chelsea Gohd
    Universe Public Engagement Specialist
    Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is a Universe Public Engagement Specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. With her experience as a science communicator and writer, she works to make science accessible for a public audience through a creative variety of content. Previously, she worked as a senior writer at where she wrote newsworthy articles and longer features on science topics ranging from climate change to exoplanet exploration and human spaceflight. In this role she also created and hosted a variety of educational videos. Gohd has also written science content for the American Museum of Natural History and is an analog astronaut, having completed the analog Mars mission Sensoria M2 at HI-SEAS in 2020. She is also an accomplished musician, recording and performing indie pop/rock music under the name Foxanne. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from Rutgers University. more
  • Sara Hass
    Sara Hass
    Universe Public Engagement Specialist
    Sara Haas is a Universe public engagement specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She strives to create educational materials and experiences that inspire curiosity and wonder. Previously, she worked as an art director and designer making campaigns for a variety of clients including TikTok, WeTransfer, Beats by Dre, and the LA County Museum of Art. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in design and media arts from UCLA. Her favorite exoplanet is 55 Cancri e.