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UA Alumnus Update: James Head

Dr. James Head (1999) is serving as a Science and Technology Policy Fellow, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and hosted at the State Department, Office of Space and Advanced Technology. There are approximately 250 AAAS Fellows, approximately 35 serving in Congress and the balance spread across 15 executive branch agencies. Fellows mostly hold a Ph.D. in a scientific discipline, leavened with a few Masters-level engineers, medical doctors, and a veterinarian. The Fellows provide science expertise for the policy process, both in formulation and implementation and in return are given an unparalleled education in the operations of the Federal government. Jim's Fellowship began with two weeks of orientation in September 2010, where experts in the public and academic sectors instructed the entering class of 140 on the philosophical underpinnings of the American experiment in government, the Federal budget and process, executive and legislative processes and cultures, diplomacy and foreign policy, and science policy. This training is augmented throughout the Fellowship tenure with monthly professional development activities ranging from learning how to negotiate a Washington cocktail party to career planning to public engagement to panels on jobs for PhDs outside the laboratory. With ~1500 former Fellows working in government and Non-governmental organizations in the DC area, the alumni constitute a formidable network of science and policy expertise.

Jim's office manages international aspects of America's space program and helps craft and implement each administration's National Space Policy. His specific portfolio includes space weather, space debris, space situational awareness, and near-earth objects, utilizing the expertise gained at LPL and in a decade in the aerospace industry. The fact that he learned space physics from Randy Jokipii and remembers a few key equations granted him instant credibility with space weather experts at NOAA and NASA, which aids his efforts internationally.

In his Fellowship role, Jim has participated in the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (Vienna), the International Astronautical Congress (Cape Town), the annual US-EU space security dialogue (Madrid), and the European Space Weather Week (Belgium). He represents the international viewpoint to US government agencies at venues such as Space Weather Week (Boulder) and NASA-sponsored workshops (NASA-Ames). His most significant task to date was leading the US interagency process to craft the US position on long-term sustainability of space activities, then negotiating a consensus document and workplan at the UN that met US objectives. He now serves on three expert groups established in that effort. In addition, Jim instigated and leads an international effort to develop and adopt goals for space weather cooperation in research and operations. In these efforts Jim works closely with scientists and international specialists at NASA, NOAA, the National Weather Service, the Pentagon, USGS, and the FAA.

Jim renewed the Fellowship to serve the maximum two years and hence will be somewhere else by September. That may be a return to Raytheon in Tucson, but the Fellowship opens many opportunities in government, academia, and industry that would not be available otherwise.
Information about AAAS Fellowship can be found at

Information about the UN role in space exploration can be found at

Dr. Barbara Cohen: a renaissance woman who contributes broadly

Betty Pierazzo Memorial Fund

The Planetary Science Institute has established the Betty Pierazzo Memorial Fund. The purpose of this fund will be to promote science in education.

To contribute, please visit this website.

Betty was a 1997 graduate of LPL. She was also adjunct faculty at LPL, regularly teaching PTYS 214 before her death in 2011.

Grinspoon named Blumberg Chair in Astrobiology

Congratulations to PTYS alumnus David Grinspoon (1988) on his appointment as the first Baruch S. Blumberg NASA-Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology!

April 16, 2012

RELEASE: 12-113


WASHINGTON -- NASA and the Library of Congress have announced the selection of David H. Grinspoon to be The chair, selected through an international competition, is named for the late Nobel Laureate and founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Baruch "Barry" Blumberg. Applications are solicited by the Library of Congress and reviewed by a panel jointly established by the Library and NASA. The prestigious position was created in November 2011.

Grinspoon will be in residence for a year beginning November 2012 at the library's scholarly research organization, the Kluge Center, in Washington. He is the curator of astrobiology in the Department of Space Sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Grinspoon is a well-known researcher in planetary science and the author of the award-winning book "Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life."

"Grinspoon's background as an astrobiology researcher, writer and communicator of science makes him an ideal choice," said Carl Pilcher, director of the Astrobiology Institute at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. "This is certainly the start of what will become a great tradition of astrobiology chairs at the library."

Astrobiology is the study of the origins, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe. It addresses three fundamental questions: How did life begin and evolve? Is there life elsewhere? What is the future of life on Earth and beyond? The institute's mission is to promote interdisciplinary research in astrobiology, train the next generation of astrobiologists and provide scientific and technical leadership for NASA space missions.

"Grinspoon is uniquely positioned to introduce the Library's unique multidisciplinary collections on the emerging subject to a wide and diverse public," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.

At the library, Blumberg was a founding member of the Scholar's Council, a 12-member group of distinguished scholars who advise the Librarian of Congress on matters of scholarship.

Blumberg was awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for discovery of the Hepatitis B virus and development of a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B infection. He was the founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, serving from 1999 to 2002.

Grinspoon will examine choices facing humanity as we enter the Anthropocene Era, the epoch when human activities are becoming a defining characteristic of the physical nature and functioning of Earth. His research will include studies of the role of planetary exploration in fostering scientific and public understanding of climate change and the power of astrobiology as a model of interdisciplinary research and communication.

For more information about NASA's Astrobiology Program, visit:

For more information about the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, visit:

Melissa Lamberton: Space Grant alumna

Melissa Lamberton graduated from the University of Arizona in 2009 with degrees in Environmental Sciences and Creative Writing. As a Space Grant student, she collaborated with Mike Drake to complete a history of LPL (available at Last summer, her article, "A Thirsty Tree" was published in A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments.

Melissa sends us the following update:

I'm finishing up my second year (of three) at Iowa State University's MFA program in Creative Writing and Environment. Mostly I'm working on my thesis now, which will be a nonfiction book about water in the west....It describes the science of environmental flows---a way of returning a portion of natural rhythms to rivers that have been dammed or diverted. It also describes the historical roots behind our desire to engineer "new" water into existence rather than deal carefully with what we have. The story, in a revised form, will probably be a chapter in the book.

My classwork in the program is a mix of science, writing and literature classes.

I'm also working as a Communications Research Assistant for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, which is a research and education center that looks for ways to make farming profitable while conserving ecological resources. And I'm volunteering at an organic farm (Onion Creek Farm) on weekends.

I've published a handful of things since coming [to Iowa]...I'll have another article in by the end of the month, about my sister's work with mountain lions for Sky Island Alliance. Also an essay called "Tracing the Creek Home" was published in Flyway and 3 articles about recent ecology topics on the Southwest Climate Change Network website. I've placed two poems, still forthcoming in Spiral Orb and Platte Valley Review. A book chapter I coauthored with colleagues when I still lived in Tucson just came out in "The Water-Energy Nexus in the American Southwest."

I've also revisited some of the oral history material I collected at LPL and am working on short essays. I'm so excited about seeing the one about Paul Geissler's work in Sky & Telescope in a year or so---publishing there fulfills a childhood dream!

...[and] I've been chatting with Anna Spitz [1991] about updating the oral history project to include OSIRIS-REx. I hope I get a chance to do that!


Contents Spring 2012 Department News
Faculty Updates
Grad Student News
Alumni Updates
LPL in the News