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Ellen Stofan ’83, D.Sc. ’16

Former Chief Scientist at NASA

Major: {{,Geology}}

William & Mary is the place where Ellen Stofan’s journey as a planetary scientist began. Her undergraduate experience cemented her love of geology, but more importantly it nurtured and continued to ignite her love of learning. She learned about herself as a person, and learned how to be a researcher, a questioner, and even a singer of silly sorority songs. "William & Mary is a part of the fabric of my life," she says.

Ellen went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees from Brown University, and a broad career that includes more than 25 years of space-related experience. In 2021, she was named the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for Science and Research. In this role, Ellen leads the Institution’s collective scientific efforts and commitment to research. In 2018, she became the first woman to be named director of one of the world’s most popular museums, the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Prior to that Ellen served as a consulting senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and as NASA’s Chief Scientist. One of the things that Ellen treasures most about her years at William & Mary, and her time at NASA, is the focus on understanding the unknown.

Learn more about Ellen