New Lavin Speaker: NASA’s Former Chief Scientist Dr. Ellen Stofan Discusses Women in STEM, Climate Change, & Getting to Mars
Growing up in a family of scientists, geologist Dr. Ellen Stofan always knew she wanted to study the cosmos, despite the restrictions leveled at women in the field. “I felt I had to work twice as hard to be taken half as seriously. And so I did.” Now, Stofan works to promote gender parity in STEM, when she isn’t figuring out the quickest flight path to Mars.
New to the Lavin roster, Dr. Ellen Stofan is the former Chief Scientist of NASA (2013–2016), where she served as principal advisor to the NASA Administrator on the agency’s science-related strategic planning and programs. This is a role Stofan worked toward her entire life—from observing her father innovate as a rocket scientist, to witnessing her first explosive rocket launch at the age of four, to listening to Carl Sagan describe what the Viking missions to Mars might accomplish for humanity, before finally becoming a planetary geologist in her own right and studying volcanic eruptions on Venus.
With NASA, Stofan has explored the atmosphere of Venus, studied the rocky surface of Mars, and examined the methane lakes of the surface of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons (in fact, as associate member of the Cassini Mission to Saturn Radar Team, she proposed a mission to land a boat on one of Titan’s seas).
In her talks, Stofan draws on her work as an outspoken advocate for the funding of science and technology, as well as her campaigns for greater environmental protection. She also implores young people—women and people of color, specifically—to embrace careers in STEM, reminding students that possibilities in the sciences are limitless, and that their inventions can change the planet as we know it (as well as for all future generations). As a writer, she has published extensively; she is co-author of the book Planetology: Unlocking the Secrets of the Solar System and the upcoming publication The Next Earth: What Can Our World Teach Us About Other Planets?, both published by National Geographic.
Funny and gifted with the ability to make even the most fathomless material seem comprehensive, Stofan brings relentless curiosity and fearlessness to both her research and keynotes.