Meet our Speakers

Hear directly from a mix of diverse NASA speakers - from the Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, to our Program Executive, Jenn Gustetic, this event brings you direct access to leaders and technical contacts.
Jim Bridenstine
NASA Administrator

Jim Bridenstine

NASA Administrator
Jim Bridenstine was nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the 13th Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. As administrator, he has led NASA in advancing American aeronautic, science, and space exploration objectives since April 23, 2018.

Under Bridenstine’s leadership, NASA launched its new human lunar exploration mission, the Artemis program. As announced by Vice President Mike Pence in March 2019, the Artemis program will land the first woman and the next man on the surface of the Moon by 2024, the first human landing since the end of NASA’s Apollo missions in 1972. Through the Artemis program, NASA is developing the Orion crew capsule and the Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket ever built. These state-of-the-art systems will help build the Gateway, a lunar orbiting space station that will give American astronauts more access to the surface of the Moon than ever before. As directed by President Trump, all lunar exploration efforts under Artemis are designed to prove our technology and perfect our capabilities to live and work on a different world in preparation for a future crewed mission to Mars.

Bridenstine has managed the continued commercial resupply of the International Space Station and has led agency efforts to partner with American businesses on the Commercial Crew Program. This program seeks to once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, something not done since the end of the Shuttle program in 2011. Additionally, Bridenstine established the Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program to partner with private enterprise in landing rovers on the lunar surface. These rovers will contain tools and science experiments in preparation for the arrival of American astronauts.

During Bridenstine’s tenure, the agency has reinforced aeronautic development of the X-59, a quiet supersonic aircraft, and the X-57, the agency’s first all-electric airplane. He has also backed NASA’s aeronautical innovators to develop the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management to facilitate the safe use of drones for commercial enterprise and in everyday life. The agency’s dynamic science portfolio under Bridenstine includes a life-seeking Mars rover scheduled to launch in July 2020, enhancing the nation’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites and final preparations of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Prior to serving at NASA, Bridenstine was elected in 2012 to represent Oklahoma’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served on the Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Bridenstine’s career in federal service began in 1998 as a pilot in the U.S. Navy, flying the E-2C Hawkeye off the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. It was there that he flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and accrued most of his 1,900 flight hours and 333 arrested landings on an aircraft carrier. He later moved to the F-18 Hornet and flew at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, the parent command to TOPGUN.

After transitioning from active duty to the U.S. Navy Reserve, Bridenstine returned to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to be the executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium.

Bridenstine completed a triple major at Rice University and earned his MBA at Cornell University. He and his wife, Michelle, have three children.
Jenn Gustetic
NASA SBIR/STTR Program Executive

Jenn Gustetic

NASA SBIR/STTR Program Executive
Jenn Gustetic is the Program Executive for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR/STTR) at NASA Headquarters.

Gustetic worked at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 2014-2016 as the Assistant Director for Open Innovation where she was responsible for scaling the use of open innovation approaches like prizes, crowdsourcing, and citizen science across the Federal Government. Among other accomplishments, in this role she co-founded GSA’s citizenscience.gov program and oversaw a cumulative doubling of the use of incentive prizes government-wide (from 350 total prizes conducted from 2010-2014 to 700 total prizes from 2010-2016).

This White House role built on her previous experience as NASA’s Prizes and Challenges Program Executive where she served as NASA’s principle advocate, advisor and strategist for open innovation methods. Gustetic has consulted several Federal Government agencies on open government issues such as the Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development as the Associate Director for Strategic Engagement and Communications at Phase One Consulting Group. She also served as a Federal employee at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as the senior program analyst for $400 million in annual transportation security grant programs.

Gustetic holds a bachelors degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in technology policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
James Reuter
NASA STMD Associate Administrator

James Reuter

NASA STMD Associate Administrator
James L. Reuter was named NASA’s associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in June 2019, a position in which he served in an acting capacity since February 2017. In this role, he provides executive leadership and management of the technology programs within STMD, with an annual investment value of $1.1 billion.

Reuter was the deputy associate administrator of STMD from February 2017-February 2018. Prior to this role, Reuter served as the senior executive for technical integration in the Center Director’s Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center from 2009-2015, providing strategic leadership on critical technology and integration activities. Additionally, Reuter served as the Exploration Systems Division (ESD) Standing Review Board chair, responsible for overseeing development activities of the Space Launch System, Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, Ground Systems Development and Operations Programs, and the ESD integration activities.

Previously, Reuter served in many managerial roles at Marshall including Ares vehicle integration manager in the Constellation program, the deputy manager of Space Shuttle Propulsion Office, and the deputy manager of Space Shuttle External Tank Project Office during the shuttle return-to-flight activities. In 2002, he was assigned to a detail at NASA Headquarters as the deputy associate director in the Space Transportation Technology Division in the Office of Aerospace Technology. From 1994 to 2001, he was the Environmental Control and Life Support System manager for the International Space Station at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Reuter began his NASA career in 1983 as an aerospace engineer in the Structures and Propulsion Laboratory in Marshall’s Science and Engineering Directorate.

Reuter has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He has received numerous NASA awards and honors, including a 2019 Distinguished Service Medal, 2016 Outstanding Leadership Medal, 2013 NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, a 2008 NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, a 2002 NASA Exceptional Service Medal, a 1998 Silver Snoopy Award and a 1993 Space Station Award of Merit.
Gynelle Steele
NASA SBIR/STTR Deputy Program Executive

Gynelle Steele

NASA SBIR/STTR Deputy Program Executive
Gynelle Steele is a Deputy Program Executive for NASA SBIR and STTR Programs.

Steele previously managed the Glenn Research Center SBIR/STTR Program Office and was the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate Liaison. Prior to serving as Glenn's SBIR/STTR Program Manager, Steele was an engineer in the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) serving as the Center Software Release Authority where she led the design and implementation of the Agency's software repository and designed and managed the Glenn Garrett Morgan Commercialization Initiative (GMCI) which was the Agency's only program focusing exclusively on transferring technology to small disadvantaged businesses.

Steele has received multiple awards including the ARMD Associate Administrator's Program and Mission Support Award, the Office of Small Business Programs Technical Person of the Year award, the NASA Medal for Exceptional Service, and the National Women of Color award.

She holds a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from Ohio University and a MBA from Cleveland State University.
Sunita Williams
NASA Astronaut; Captain, U.S. Navy, Ret.
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Sunita Williams

NASA Astronaut; Captain, U.S. Navy, Ret.

Sunita Williams (Suni) was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1998 and is a veteran of two space missions Expeditions 14/15 and 32/33. She is currently training for the first post-certification mission of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft – the second crewed flight for that vehicle – and her third long duration mission aboard the International Space Station. Suni Williams and her crewmates are working closely with Boeing to develop their new spacecraft systems, which will provide roundtrip crew transportation services to the International Space Station and, along with SpaceX’s CrewDragon, return the ability to launch humans into space from United States soil.

Selected as an astronaut by NASA in June 1998, she reported for training in August 1998. Astronaut Candidate Training included orientation briefings and tours, numerous scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in shuttle and International Space Station systems, physiological training and ground school to prepare for T-38 flight training, as well as learning water and wilderness survival techniques. Following a period of training and evaluation, Suni Williams worked in Moscow with the Russian Space Agency on the Russian contribution to the space station and with the first Expedition Crew. Following the return of Expedition 1, Suni Williams worked within the Robotics branch on the station’s Robotic Arm and the follow-on Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator. As a NEEMO2 crew member, she lived underwater in the Aquarius habitat for 9 days. After her first flight, she served as Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office. She then supported a long-duration mission as Flight Engineer for Expedition 32 and International Space Station Commander for Expedition 33. Suni Williams has spent a total of 322 days in space on two missions; she ranks second on the all-time U.S. endurance list for females. With 50 hours and 40 minutes, she is second on the list of total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut.

Read more: https://www.nasa.gov/astronauts/biographies/sunita-l-Suni Williams/biography

Aprille Joy Ericsson
NASA NBL for Instrument Systems and Tech. Division
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Aprille Joy Ericsson

NASA NBL for Instrument Systems and Tech. Division

During her 27+ year tenure with NASA, Dr. Aprille Ericsson has held numerous positions. In 2017, Dr. Aprille Ericsson assumed the position of New Business Lead (NBL) for the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Instrument Systems and Technology Division. In this role she seeks to foster government partnerships that enable industry and small businesses to collaborate with universities, to compete for opportunities to solve strategic R&D challenges faced by various government agencies within the United States. In her role as NBL, she serves as engineering representative on the Astrophysics, Heliophysics, Planetary and Earth Science and Cross-Cutting Technology Lines of Business. Just prior to that position, she served as the Capture Manager for a proposed Astrophysics mid-sized Class Explorer, called STAR-X. Prior to that proposal development, Dr. Aprille Ericsson served as the NASA GSFC Program Manager for Small Business and Innovative Research in the Innovative Technology Partnerships Office. Formerly, she served as the Deputy to the Chief Technologist for the Engineering and Technology Directorate with a focus on cubesat and smallsat mission development. She has also served at NASA HQs as a Program Executive (PE) for Earth Science, and a Business Executive for Space Science.

For 10 years, Dr. Aprille Ericsson was an Instrument Project Manager (IPM) and led spaceflight mission teams and proposal developments for various instruments that include the Near-Infrared Spectrograph on the James Webb Space Telescope; the Project Engineer for the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, which launched April 2009 on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter; and Instrument Proposal Manager for a Mars mission, SCIM. For 3.5 years she served as the Acting IPM and Deputy IPM for ICESat-2’s sole instrument the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS, launched 2018), a $500M LIDAR instrument which continues to provide important observations of ice-sheet elevation change, sea-ice freeboard, and vegetation canopy height begun by ICESat (-I), on which Dr. Aprille Ericsson was PE in 2003. Dr. Aprille Ericsson first joined GSFC as an Attitude Control Systems analyst, where she developed practical control methods and analyzed structural dynamics for several spacecraft missions and concepts.

She has served as an Adjunct Faculty member at several Universities. Currently, she sits on Academic boards at the National Academies (Board of Higher Education and Workforce), MIT (Industry Advisory Council for Minority Education), Chair of the Advisory Board for Howard University (HU) Department of Mechanical Engineering and previously as a HU Trustee and Blacks at MIT. She is lead Advisor for the DMV NSBE Jr. Chapter at HU. Dr. Aprille Ericsson has served as an MIT Education counselor for the almost 15 years. She has also been a proposal reviewer for NSF and NASA.

Dr. Aprille Ericsson received her Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering from MIT. She received her Master of Engineering and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at HU with an Aerospace option. Her graduate school research at HU was developing control methods for orbiting large space platforms like ISS.

Dr. Aprille Ericsson has been honored with numerous awards. Some of the most prestigious are from the Western Society of Engineers, “The 2016 Washington Award”, and The Engineering Honor Society, Tau Beta PI, Distinguished Alumnus. She is proud to be the first (African American) female to receive a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from HU; the first American to receive a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, the Aerospace option from HU; and the first African American female to receive a Ph.D. in Engineering at NASA GSFC.

Ken Wright
NASA Agency Lead for Innovation

Ken Wright

NASA Agency Lead for Innovation

Ken Wright currently serves as the Agency Lead for Innovation in NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. He is responsible for developing NASA’s Innovation Framework. Ken Wright also is directing the design and implementation of the agency’s Innovation Portal, which links NASA employees to tools that facilitate innovation. Ken Wright works with NASA senior leadership to cultivate innovation experiments that increase the pace of innovation and transform diverse ideas into value by effectively addressing mission challenges.

Steven Clarke
NASA Deputy Associate Administrator, ARMD
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Steven Clarke

NASA Deputy Associate Administrator, ARMD

Steven Clarke is the deputy associate administrator for ARMD at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. He is responsible for leading long-term strategic, portfolio, and budget planning and analysis for ARMD to guide long-term portfolio requirements and program balance to meet national needs.

He oversees mission directorate operations and organizational development, as well as supervises the Portfolio Analysis and Management Office. He authoritatively represents ARMD on behalf of the associate administrator as needed, at agency governance councils, inter-agency councils, and with external stakeholders.

Previously, as the deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Steven Clarke served as the agency’s interface between the NASA mission directorates, the scientific community, and other external stakeholders in developing and implementing Space Policy Directive-1 using an integrated approach to achieve science and human exploration objectives for the Moon and Mars.

Steven Clarke returned to NASA after serving as a senior policy analyst with the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the Executive Office of the President, where he was responsible for leading a number of important initiatives, including space weather. He led the cross-government Space Weather Operations, Research and Mitigation subcommittee as the OSTP co-chair.

Prior to his OSTP duties, Steven Clarke was director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division, where he led the formulation and implementation of a national research program that used scientific flight investigations and research grants to understand the Sun, its interactions with the Earth and the solar system, and how the observed phenomena impact life and society.

Steven Clarke also served as director of NASA’s Joint Agency Satellite Division, where he led reimbursable spacecraft and instrument development activities performed by NASA for partner agencies, including the Deep Space Climate Observatory, Joint Polar Satellite System, and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-R series. He also supported the deputy associate administrator of the Exploration Systems Development Division at NASA Headquarters, where he was responsible for developing the architecture for human exploration beyond Earth orbit.

He has received numerous awards during his career, including the Presidential Rank Award and NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal for outstanding leadership.

Steven Clarke earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in engineering and a Master’s of Science degree in engineering management from the University of Central Florida.

Florence Tan
NASA SSCG Chair and Deputy Chief Technologist, SMD
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Florence Tan

NASA SSCG Chair and Deputy Chief Technologist, SMD

Florence Tan is the Chair of the Small Spacecraft Coordination Group (SSCG) at NASA Headquarters and is also the Deputy Chief Technologist (DCT) for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD). In her role as SSCG Chair, she leads the SSCG to coordinate and develop NASA’s strategy and vision for small spacecraft in science, exploration missions, and technology activities and provide advice to the Associate Administrators of the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) and SMD. As the DCT for SMD, she supports the SMD Chief Technologist to survey and assess technology needs for NASA’s science.

Previously, Florence Tan worked at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) for 32 years and has had design and build, I&T, and operational roles in seven mass spectrometers to destinations including Mars, Saturn, Titan, and the Moon. She has received numerous awards including the NASA Medal for Exceptional Achievement, the Robert H. Goddard Exceptional Achievement for Outreach, Goddard Division Excellence Award, Goddard Special Act Awards and Goddard Peer Awards, and multiple NASA Group Achievement Awards including the NASA Honor Award Silver Achievement Medal and others. She has made it a personal goal to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, and she actively engages in outreach activities with students and the public to promote NASA science and technology advancements multiple times per year in the last 15 years.

Florence Tan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Maryland, and a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and MBA from Johns Hopkins University.

Damian Taylor
NASA SBIR/STTR Program Acting Deputy Program Executive
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Damian Taylor

NASA SBIR/STTR Program Acting Deputy Program Executive

Damian Taylor is employed at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC in the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). He currently serves as the Acting Deputy Program Executive for Integration in the NASA SBIR/STTR program. Damian Taylor has held various programmatic positions with increasing responsibility in NASA for the last 10 years.

Prior to NASA, Damian Taylor worked for various companies – including Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen, Kodak, ITT Space Systems, and ARES, Inc. – for over 15 years within the Space, Intelligence, and Department of Defense industries as an Engineering Consultant, Systems Engineer, Program Manager, and Business Unit Manager.

Damian Taylor holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Western International University and Florida Institute of Technology, and is a graduate of the Air Force’s Squadron Officer School as well as the Air Command and Staff College in the areas of electronics technology, international business, management, acquisition/contracts, leadership, and national security/policy. As Lieutenant Colonel, Damian Taylor has also worked for the last 26 years as an Air Force reserve officer in various leadership positions and now serves as an Inspector General.

Cheryl Quinn
NASA AOSP Deputy Director

Cheryl Quinn

NASA AOSP Deputy Director

Cheryl Quinn is the Deputy Director for the Airspace Operations and Safety Program (AOSP) within the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, where she supports the overall planning, management and evaluation of NASA’s aviation operations and safety research portfolio across four research centers. She serves as the SBIR Mission Directorate Representative for the Aeronautics Mission Directorate (ARMD). Prior to her assignment to the AOSP Program, she served as the Associate Director for Aeronautics at NASA Ames Research Center and was the Small Business Technical Liaison for the Aeronautics Directorate at Ames and the Ames Aeronautics representative to NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research / Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program. Cheryl Quinn began her NASA career at Ames conducting air traffic management research. She has served in project management positions within ARMD’s Airspace Systems Program and has held branch and division level management positions within the Aeronautics Directorate at NASA Ames. Cheryl Quinn holds a Bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a Master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

Mark McDonald
NASA Chief Architect, Space Technology Mission Directorate
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Mark McDonald

NASA Chief Architect, Space Technology Mission Directorate

Mark McDonald was named Chief Architect for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in August 2019. In this role, he provides executive leadership in establishing a long-term vision for STMD investments, with an annual investment value of $1.1 billion.

Mark McDonald was the international formulation team lead for the Gateway Lunar Architecture from 2012 through 2018. Previously, Mark McDonald served in many managerial roles at Johnson Space Center including Deputy Manager of the Design Integration Office in the Constellation program, the Branch Chief of the Avionics Systems Division’s Product Development Branch, the deputy manager of Avionics Project Management Office, and Chairman of the International Space Station Architecture Integration Team. Mark McDonald began his NASA career in 1987 as an electrical engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and transferred to Johnson Space Center in 1990.

Mark McDonald has a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the Texas A&M University and a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California. He has received numerous NASA awards and honors including a 2013 NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, a 2004 Silver Snoopy Award and 2000 & 2001 Space Flight Awareness Awards.

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