Changes in NExScI Leadership

Written by Seppo Laine

Dr. David Ciardi, an IPAC senior science staff member and NExScI’s Chief Scientist, has been appointed Deputy Director of the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI). His new appointment was announced on May 3, 2024, effective immediately.

Ciardi received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Wyoming in 1997. He is a member of numerous science teams and has been awarded the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award for work on exoplanets detected by the Kepler space telescope. His current research focuses on characterizing exoplanets, particularly in binary star systems.

Ciardi’s 22-year tenure at IPAC, spent mostly at NExScI, has given him a keen understanding of all the aspects of NExScI’s responsibilities. As NExScI’s Chief Scientist of Operations he made important contributions to the strategic and tactical direction of all NExScI activities. Before that, he worked as Project Scientist for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (since renamed the Vera C. Rubin Observatory), the Kepler Science Analysis System, and the Keck Observatory Archive. Ciardi has also been involved in the creation and development of the NASA Exoplanet Archive and the Exoplanet Follow-up Observing Program (ExoFOP), and he had key roles in NExScI’s partnerships with CoRoT, Kepler, and TESS. In his new role, he will assist the Director's Office.

Dr. Jessie Christiansen, the current science lead of the NASA Exoplanet Archive at NExScI, will take on Ciardi’s former role as NExScI’s Chief Scientist.

“David has been an architect of the NASA Exoplanet Archive and ExoFOP with its integration of Kepler and TESS follow-up activities. Both David and Jessie have active science research programs. We appreciate their willingness to take on these new roles,” said NExScI Executive Director Charles “Chas” Beichman.

“I am extremely honored to have been selected as the Deputy Director for NExScI,” said Ciardi. “As the NExScI Chief Scientist these past few years, I have been able to learn from and work with the wonderful team at NExScI and I hope to use that experience to help guide the scientific direction of NExScI. In my new role as Deputy Director, my goal is to take that experience and help NExScI forge a direction and a set of partnerships to lead us into the exciting exoplanet future, while supporting the talented, diverse, and inclusive team at NExScI. NExScI can help the community discover and characterize thousands of planets and planetary systems with data from NASA's TESS, JWST, and Roman and ESA's Gaia, Plato, and Ariel missions, with the goal of discovering and characterizing an Earth-like planet that might be capable of hosting life, perhaps with a future mission, such as the Habitable Worlds Observatory. I have learned an enormous amount from our previous Deputy Director Dawn Gelino, and I hope to have as positive an impact on NExScI and NExScI's support for the community as Dr. Gelino had. As a world- wide community, we are on the verge of truly understanding our place in the Universe, and NExScI- Caltech/IPAC is here to help support the community and NASA in that quest.”

Dawn Gelino served as NExScI’s Deputy Director since 2017, leading the highly successful Science Affairs team that runs the annual Sagan Summer Workshop and arranges the NASA/Keck Telescope proposal calls and reviews, is responsible for the Sagan Fellows portion of the NASA Hubble Fellowship Program, and directs NExScI’s presence at science conferences. She has now taken on new duties as the Program Manager of the NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“Dawn came to NExScI 20 years ago and has been the leader of NExScI’s Science Affairs team for most of that time. She also found time to serve the AAS in many ways, including, most recently, as AAS Vice President. We wish her well in her new role leading NASA’s Exoplanet program,” said Beichman.

Date: June 6th, 2024
Category: IPAC News
Image Link: David.Ciardi2.png