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 BlackwoodProgram 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 Plane... more
Kendra ShortDeputy 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 StapelfeldtProgram 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 Spa... more
Eric MamajekDeputy 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, wh... more
Nick SieglerProgram 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. Siegl... more
Keith WarfieldProgram 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. Wa... more
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 Administration from the University of Southern California.
Charles BeichmanNExScI 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... more
Phil WillemsLBTI 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 medi... more
John CallasNN-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 addition... more
David ArdilaK2 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 calibration... more
Brendan CrillDeputy 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 ballo... more
Mary RomejkoProgram 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 perform... more
Ray LemusProgram 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 contrac... more
Dolly SpadaroProgram Resource Analyst
Dolly Spadaro joined JPL on January 6, 2020 as a Resource Analyst and is supporting the Exoplanet Exploration Program Office within the Astronomy & Physics Directorate. Prior to her position, she served as a Grant Manager in the Astronomy, Physics, and Mathematics Division at Caltech supporting scientists in the Observational Cosmology Group (projects like SPHEREx, Keck Array, CIBER and research in dark energy and cosmic microwave background and its polarization). Before Caltech, she worked at the RA... more
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.
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 planets are discovered and enjoys being part of a remarkable group, a team of experts searching for life on other planets.
Thalia RiveraPublic 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 sc... more
Pat BrennanScience 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.
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.