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NASA Nobel Prize Recipient To Lead Chief Scientist Office

John Mather, new head of the Office of the Chief Scientist at Headquarters in Washington.
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 05, 2007
NASA's new Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Alan Stern has appointed NASA scientist and 2006 Nobel Prize recipient John Mather to lead the Office of the Chief Scientist at Headquarters in Washington. Mather and his staff in the newly created office will be chief advisors to Stern.

"John Mather is a scientist of legendary reputation, technical ability and space science mission experience. His office will provide independent scientific advice to me to guide decision making regarding all aspects of the NASA science program," Stern said.

Office responsibilities will include assisting the associate administrator in setting flight mission and research budget priorities for all NASA science programs. The office will ensure NASA's research programs are scientifically and technologically well founded, are appropriate for their intended applications and achieve a fair and optimal balance between the various scientific disciplines in the directorate. In addition, the office will help develop and enhance discussions with the national and international science community.

In October 2006, Mather and George Smoot of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif., received the Nobel Prize for Physics for their collaborative work in understanding the Big Bang.

Mather joined NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., to head the Cosmic Background Explorer Mission as project scientist. He has been a Goddard Fellow since 1994 and currently serves as senior project scientist and chair of the Science Working Group of the James Webb Space Telescope. He will continue this position while taking on his new responsibilities in Washington.

Mather, a recipient of numerous awards, has a bachelor's degree in physics from Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pa., and a doctorate in physics from the University of California, Berkeley.

In addition, Stern named Paul Hertz to direct the newly created Science Policy, Process and Ethics Office. Hertz will ensure NASA's science research programs are conducted with the highest standards and effectiveness in accordance with NASA's principles of science merit, open competition and peer review. He also will be responsible for the solicitation, selection and award processes within the directorate's research program.

"Paul is a talented, energetic, dedicated scientist and public servant who is ideally suited to this key position. I am pleased to have him lead in this important role," Stern added.

Hertz joined the NASA Office of Space Science, Washington, as a senior scientist in 2000. He has held management positions for numerous NASA science projects and programs. Hertz has a bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, and a doctorate in astronomy from Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. He was an astrophysicist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, before joining NASA. He has received numerous honors, including the Meritorious Presidential Rank Award.

NASA's Science Mission Directorate conducts research and scientific programs to observe the Earth, study space weather and explore the solar system and the universe beyond. To achieve these scientific goals, NASA conducts an assortment of grant-based research programs and manages a diverse constellation of spacecraft that carry out missions ranging from small, principal investigator-led missions to large flagship missions.

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