Chris Hadfield

Astronaut | First Canadian Commander of the International Space Station (2013)

“Good morning, Earth!” That is how Colonel Chris Hadfield—writing on Twitter—woke up the world every day while living for five months aboard the International Space Station. Through his 21-years as an astronaut, three spaceflights, and 2600 orbits of Earth, Colonel Hadfield has become a worldwide sensation, harnessing the power of social media to make outer space accessible to millions and infusing a sense of wonder into our collective consciousness not felt since humanity first walked on the Moon. Called “the most famous astronaut since Neil Armstrong,” Colonel Hadfield continues to bring the marvels of science and space travel to everyone he encounters.

Colonel Hadfield is a pioneer of many historic “firsts”. In 1992, he was selected by the Canadian Space Agency as a NASA Mission Specialist—Canada’s first fully-qualified Space Shuttle crew member. Three years later, aboard Shuttle Atlantis, he was the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm in space, and the first Canadian to board a Russian spacecraft as he helped build space station “Mir.” In 2001, aboard Shuttle Endeavour, Colonel Hadfield performed two spacewalks—the first Canadian to do so—and, in 2013, he was Commander of the International Space Station—the first and only Canadian to ever command a spaceship—so far.

During his multi-faceted career, Colonel Hadfield has intercepted Soviet bombers in Canadian airspace, lived on the ocean floor, been NASA’s Director of Operations in Russia, and recorded science and music videos seen by hundreds of millions.

A heavily decorated astronaut, engineer, and pilot, Colonel Hadfield’s many awards include receiving the Order of Canada, the Meritorious Service Cross, and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. He was named the Top Test Pilot in both the US Air Force and the US Navy, and has been inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.

Colonel Hadfield is the author of three internationally bestselling books, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, You Are Here, and his children's book, The Darkest Dark. Additionally, he released his musical album, Space Sessions: Songs From A Tin Can, in 2015.

He has been commemorated on Canadian postage stamps, Royal Canadian Mint coins, and on Canada’s newest five dollar bill (along with fellow astronauts Steve MacLean and Dave Williams).

Dr. Conor Nixon

Dr Conor Nixon is a planetary scientist working on NASA’s Cassini space mission in orbit at Saturn. His research is focused on Saturn's moon Titan, host to an array of complex chemicals that may emulate the conditions of the early Earth. When not ‘doing a science’ he enjoys running, karate, hiking and of course - science fiction books and movies. His favorite authors are Philip K Dick and Julian May, and is a fan of too many SciFi movies to count. He was born in Belfast, Ireland, and studied at Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England.

Erin Macdonald, PhD

Erin Macdonald, PhD is a space science communicator and science fiction consultant who is passionate about  education and gives talks around the world teaching the public about space science through popular culture. She also advises authors on space science in their work. ​Her background is in gravitational waves and general relativity and includes education at museums and community colleges. Additionally, she is the global education coordination manager for World Space Week.

Noah Petro

Noah is a research scientist at NASA Goddard. His father was an engineer for the Apollo program that propelled Noah into an interest in space and planetary exploration. Later in High School he was introduced to the world of Geology, which became his passion for the rest of his professional career. Working at Goddard since 2007, Noah is the Deputy Project Scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission and is working on plans for future human and robotic exploration of deep space.

Kristen Weaver

Kristen Weaver is the Deputy Coordinator for GLOBE Observer, which aims to extend the long-standing citizen science program Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment to non-school based audiences. She is also an Outreach Specialist for the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission based out of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Prior to her work with NASA (as a contractor with Science Systems and Applications, Inc.), Kristen taught middle school science for eight years in both Montgomery County Public Schools (Maryland) and Denver Public Schools (Colorado), with a primary focus in Earth Science. She holds an M.A. in Education and a B.S. in Computer Science and Psychology, both from the University of Denver.

Giada Arney

Giada Arney is a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard. She spends most of her time simulating planetary atmospheres and thinking about exoplanets. Giada is involved with the teams planning for future space telescopes that may look for signs of habitability and life on distant exoplanets. Her hobbies include drinking too much tea and traveling excessively. 


I am scientist looking for habitable worlds. I am also a Trekkie waiting for the  first contact. I believe within our lifetime, we may have scientific evidence for alien life on other planets. It is not a question of "if", but "when". 

Mike Gold

Mr. Gold is the Chair of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee ("COMSTAC"), which provides advice and counsel to the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation.  Mr. Gold is also Vice President of Washington Operations and Business Development at Space Systems Loral, America's most prolific commercial satellite manufacturing company and a global leader in space-based robotics and propulsion.  Mr. Gold worked at Bigelow Aerospace for over a decade and has written three law review articles on the intersection of commercial space and export controls.  Mr. Gold graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and is a life-long Star Trek fan.

Sirisha Bandla

Sirisha Bandla works at Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline supporting both the LauncherOne and SpaceShipTwo programs, and supporting the development of science and technology payloads for flight. In this position, she is actively pursuing her passion for space travel, which she can partly attribute to watching Star Trek growing up. Previously, Sirisha served as the Associate Director for the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an industry association of commercial spaceflight companies. She has a Bachelors of Science degree in aeronautical/astronautical engineering from Purdue, and holds a Masters of Business Administration from the George Washington University.

George Zamka

After being selected as a pilot by NASA, Colonel Zamka reported for astronaut candidate training in August 1998.  He has served in various technical and leadership roles in the Astronaut Office and served as the lead for Space Shuttle systems.  In 2007, Colonel Zamka completed his first spaceflight as the pilot for STS-120.  For his second spaceflight, Zamka commanded the crew of STS-130, which flew in February 2010.  Colonel Zamka has logged more than 692 hours in space. In March 2013, Zamka retired from NASA.  He previously served as the Deputy Associate Administrator of the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

Dr. Paul Romani

I am a planetary scientist at NASA – Goddard Space Flight Center working primarily on the topics of atmospheric photochemistry and cloud/haze formation. I have worked on the Cassini mission from the time of proposal writing to the final plunge into Saturn. I have extensive experience spacecraft instrument commanding experience, and it is nothing like Hollywood. For example, Han Solo never consults a document entitled, “Millennium Falcon Flight Rules, Guidelines and Constraints”. Real Spacecraft commanding is both more challenging and detail oriented than that.

Marcia Segura

Marcia Segura is a member of the Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) science team based at GSFC in Greenbelt, Maryland.  With mission operations as her specialty, she serves as the CIRS team Operations Technical Lead.  She is responsible for the CIRS instrument health and safety, observation design, commanding, and the collection/return of the CIRS science data.  She oversees the team of engineers, scientists, and programmers who make the CIRS list of science objectives a reality.  

Marcia has been “doing” operations at NASA for 30+ years.  She has received numerous NASA awards including the Award for Technical Excellence in 2001 for Galileo and the Exceptional Public Service Medal in 2012 for efforts on both Galileo and Cassini.  

When not “enabling science”, Marcia enjoys spending time with her family, rescuing Irish Terriers, quilting, and genealogy.

Carrie Anderson

Dr. Carrie Anderson is a planetary scientist and a Co-Investigator on the Cassini Composite InfraRed Spectrometer (CIRS) team at NASA GSFC. She holds a B.S. in Physics and both an M.S. and Ph.D. in Astronomy. She is actively involved in the Cassini mission with an expertise in planetary atmospheres, particularly the thermal structure and particulate composition of Titan; radiative transfer analyses of the outer planets, including the effects of aerosols and condensates. Dr. Anderson's research also includes laboratory measurements of thin ice films from transmission spectroscopy techniques in her laboratory, using her SPECtroscospy of Titan-Related ice AnaLogs (SPECTRAL) high-vacuum chamber.

Eric P. Spana

Dr. Spana is a teaching faculty in the Biology Department at Duke University. He mixes some real science into science fiction and fantasy. 

Lloyd Whitman

Dr. Lloyd Whitman is the Acting Leader for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, on detail from the National Institute of Standards and Technology where he is Chief Scientist. With broad technical expertise, Lloyd has over 160 publications and patents in nanoscience, semiconductor materials and devices, and biotechnology; experience managing all aspects of successful R&D organizations; and a passion for using science and technology to solve global and national problems. Lloyd appreciates the role that pop culture can play in getting people excited about the power and promise of emerging technologies.

Jordan Green

Dr. Jordan Green is Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Ophthalmology, Oncology, Neurosurgery, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, and Materials Science & Engineering at Johns Hopkins. He is an executive committee member of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology and co-founder of the Translational Tissue Engineering Center there. Dr. Green received his B.S. in chemical engineering and biomedical engineering from Carnegie Mellon (2003) and Ph.D. in biological engineering from MIT (2007). He is also CTO and co-founder of the Baltimore biotech AsclepiX Therapeutics. He was named by Popular Science as one of the “Brilliant Ten” and his research interests are in nanobiotechnology and advanced therapeutics.

Mihal Gross

Dr. Mihal Gross hails from Bell Labs (Murrray Hill, NJ), crucible of nanotechnology, as a scientist/technologist/inventor with over 60 scientific papers and 8 U.S. patents.  Dr. Gross has most recently served as Program Manager for DOE’s Nanoscale Science Research Centers, DoD (ONR, DARPA) Program Officer for energy and laser nanoscience/nanotechnologies, and AAAS/RAND Fellow for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  Dr. Gross earned a B.Sc. degree from MIT and M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees from Northwestern University and is a Fellow of the AAAS.  Dr. Gross has served on the Materials Research Society’s Board of Directors, organized numerous conferences, and lectured internationally, and is a USPTO-registered Patent Agent.

Lourdes Salamanca-Riba

Dr. Lourdes Salamanca-Riba got her BS degree in Physics from the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana in Mexico City in 1978 and her PhD degree also in Physics from MIT in 1985. She then worked at the General Motors Research Laboratory in Warren Michigan until January 1987. She became an Assistant Professor in the Materials Science Program at the University of Maryland in 1987, Associate Professor in 1992 and Professor in 2000.  Her current projects are on the characterization of the interface in SiC/SiO2 for MOSFETs for high temperature high power applications and the incorporation of graphene networks in metals.

Jared Espley

Planetary scientist at NASA

Kinga Dobolyi

Kinga is an assistant professor of computer science at George Mason University. Her PhD thesis focused on web testing and usability, and she teaches introductory programming courses that stress test-driven development. She has her motorcycle license and is an expert coxswain of sweeps boats, but her daily driver is a child-free minivan.

Cat Aboudara

Cat Aboudara is the co-boss of Nerd Nite DC and a nerd herder.  She spent six years (give or take as she didn’t sleepover) in San Quentin State Prison working with violent offenders. The museum behind the gates and its curator inspired her to become a museum geek which she's been ever since she “got out”.

Alexis Goggans

Alexis Goggans, is a self-described minimalist, counterculturalist, truth seeking, hippy from the Great State of Colorado. She studied environmental history at the University of Colorado at Boulder, before obtaining her M.S. in interdisciplinary sustainability studies from the University of Texas at Arlington. She currently works as a Program Analyst with the Department of Energy and Environment where she manages the District's greenhouse gas inventory, green building reporting and supports the Smarter DC initiative. You can find her writing at www.tmblingweed.com.

Aaron Huertas

Co Boss of Nerd Nite DC and helping with the program

Benjamin Reed

Mr. Reed currently serves as the Deputy Division Director of the Satellite Servicing Projects Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He is responsible for the formulation, development, and execution of a portfolio of technologies cultivated to provide satellite servicing capabilities in support of Agency missions and national objectives. His responsibilities include liaising with public and private sector stakeholders on all matters related to satellite servicing.  

An expert in space environmental effects on materials, Mr. Reed was the Chief Materials Engineer for the Hubble Space Telescope Project prior to assuming his current role. Before joining NASA, he held positions with Unisys Corporation and Swales Aerospace. Mr. Reed received a B.S. in chemistry from the Catholic University of America.

Ross Henry

Ross Henry is an optical engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He holds an undergraduate degree in Physics & Astronomy from the University of Maryland, College Park and a Master’s Degree in Physics from Johns Hopkins University. He started working at NASA in 2001, and spent the early part of his career supporting various flight programs by performing characterization measurements on optical components. Since 2009, Mr. Henry has been supporting the Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD). He currently serves as the Sensors Lead for the Restore-L satellite servicing mission, and as the Manager for Raven—a test module which is developing a relative navigation system for spacecraft, and launched to the International Space Station in February.

Brett Denevi

Brett Denevi is a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, and her research focuses on the formation and evolution of planetary surfaces. She is the Deputy Principal Investigator for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, was the Deputy Instrument Scientist for the Mercury Dual Imaging System on the MESSENGER mission, and is a Co-Investigator on ShadowCam, which will explore permanently shadowed regions at the Moon's poles. Brett was the recipient of the Maryland Academy of Sciences “Outstanding Young Scientist” award in 2015, and asteroid 9026 Denevi is named in her honor.

Dr. Tim Livengood

Tim Livengood measures composition, temperature, and winds in planetary atmospheres, using ground- and space-based techniques. He uses data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to investigate where water may be hidden on the Moon, and infrared spectroscopy to investigate atmospheric evolution on Mars and Venus. He was Deputy Principal Investigator for the Submillimeter Observations of the Lunar Volatile EnvironmeNT (SOLVENT) instrument proposal and a co-investigator of NASA’s EPOXI mission. Tim developed and led the effort for EPOXI to observe Earth and Mars as exoplanet analogs. There are tons of EPOXI exoplanet-analog data waiting to be worked on.

Nayi Castro

Nayi Castro has worked in NASA spacecraft flight operations since 2008. She started her career in Earth science satellite operations and later transferred into lunar spacecraft operations with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). At LRO she has been an Operations Lead and the Mission Operations Team (MOT) power subsystem lead. Ms. Castro is currently the MOT Deputy Technical Lead for the LRO mission where she supports daily orbiter health and safety operations as well as special operations.

Wes Patterson

Principal investigator of the Miniature Radio Frequency (Mini-RF) instrument on the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission and research scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Ernie Wright

Ernie has been using 3D computer graphics to visualize scientific data for over 25 years. Since 2008, he has worked as a programmer and animator at the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, working primarily with data from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. He has produced a number of widely seen visualizations of the upcoming total solar eclipse and has become an authority on the calculation of eclipse circumstances.

C. Alex Young

Alex studies solar storms and space weather in the solar system and beyond.

Hannah Wakeford

Hannah is an astrophysicist and science communicator. In her work Hannah uses the Hubble Space Telescope to measure the atmospheres of exoplanets, planets orbiting other stars, to work out what they are made of and what their environments are like. Hannah runs a podcast each month called Exocast: The exoplanet podcast, and has done work with the BBC and NASA TV. 

Dr. Lynnae Quick

Dr. Lynnae Quick is a planetary scientist in the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies (CEPS). She holds a B.S. and M.S. in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University, and The Catholic University of America, respectively, and a Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Quick’s research focuses on geological processes occurring on the planet Venus, asteroid Ceres, and the icy moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune. She is a member of the science team for NASA’s Europa Clipper Mission, and is an associate science team member on NASA’s Dawn Mission.

Dawn Myers

Dawn has been an engineer at NASA for 20 years and a geek at heart for life. She has worked on all stages of mission lifetime. From development, building, testing, launching, operating and finally turning them off. She’s worked on SDO, Hinode, TRACE and many more. She currently works on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter as the Science Mission Planner. She coordinates the science observations for all seven instruments on board. When she isn’t planning science observations, she is sharing her love of science and engineering with the public, especially students.

Bernard Kelly

I grew up in Dublin, Ireland, and came to the U.S. to study Physics at Penn State University. Now I work at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, performing computer simulations of black holes colliding, and looking for merger signatures in gravitational and electromagnetic waves. In my spare time, I like distance running, choir singing, and promoting the use of hyphens.

Dr. Erin Kara

Dr. Erin Kara is an astrophysicist at the University of Maryland, where she holds a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship. She obtained her Bachelors degree in Physics with a minor in Art History from Barnard College of Columbia University, and from there continued on to the University of Cambridge on a Gates Cambridge Scholarship for her Masters and PhD.  She researches supermassive black holes, which reside at the centers of nearly all galaxies. In this panel, she will describe observations of stars getting ripped apart by strong gravitational forces of supermassive black holes, in a phenomenon known as Tidal Disruption Events.

Barb Mattson

Barb is the Astrophysics Communications Scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center, on contract from the University of Maryland, College Park. In this position, she leads a team that translates the division's scientific work into media products aimed at engaging the public. She earned her Ph.D. in astronomy studying active galaxies and the supersized black holes powering them. In her spare time, she is a tabletop gamer, crafter, and mechanic for her 1931 Ford Model A.

Travis Fischer

Travis is a James Webb Space Telescope NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center. His current research interests include active supermassive black holes, or Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN), and how they interact with the galaxies they live in. Travis is an observational astronomer, who uses telescopes around the world and in space to obtain spectra which show  how gas and stars are moving near the AGN. Outside of astronomy, Travis enjoys board games, racquetball, and spending time with my fantastic wife, Autumn, and their children, Elliott and Peter.

Dr. Seth Shostak

Seth is the Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute, in Mountain View, California. He has an undergraduate degree in physics from Princeton University and a doctorate in astronomy from the California Institute of Technology. For much of his career, Seth conducted radio astronomy research on galaxies and has published approximately sixty papers in professional journals.

He has written more than five hundred popular magazine, newspaper and Web articles on various topics in astronomy, technology, film and television. He lectures on astronomy and gives approximately 60 presentations annually. For a decade, he chaired the International Academy of Astronautics’ SETI Permanent Committee.

Every week he hosts the SETI Institute’s one-hour science radio show, “Big Picture Science.”

Seth has written, edited and contributed to a half dozen books. His most recent tome is Confessions of an Alien Hunter: A Scientist’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (National Geographic), and he is the co-author of a college textbook on astrobiology.

Dr. John Mather

Dr. John C. Mather is a Senior Astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where he specializes in infrared astronomy and cosmology.  He received his Bachelor’s degree in physics from Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. in physics at the University of California at Berkeley.

As an NRC postdoctoral fellow at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (New York City), he led the proposal efforts for the Cosmic Background Explorer (74-76), and came to GSFC to be the Study Scientist (76-88), Project Scientist (88-98), and the Principal Investigator for the Far IR Absolute Spectrophotometer (FIRAS) on COBE.  He and his team showed that the cosmic microwave background radiation has a blackbody spectrum within 50 parts per million, confirming the Big Bang theory to extraordinary accuracy.  

The COBE team also discovered the cosmic anisotropy (hot and cold spots in the background radiation), now believed to be the primordial seeds that led to the structure of the universe today.  It was these findings that led to Dr. Mather receiving the Nobel Prize in 2006.

Dr. Mather now serves as Senior Project Scientist (95-present) for the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the great Hubble Space Telescope.

Dr. Marc Teerlink

Dr. Marc Teerlink MBA/MBI is the Chief Business Strategist IBM’s for Watson Platform and melds big thinking with true passion. If he isn’t in an airplane, he can be found in Watson’s office in the heart of New York City’s Silicon Alley.

Marc is a recognized business and thought leader, with a successful track record as a serial entrepreneur within corporations. He has been inspiring, coaching and leading organizations to reframe opportunity for innovation, while turning data into dollars. He continues to transform businesses with his no-nonsense execution, even when change seems insurmountable.

Along with coaching startups, teaching MBA courses and publishing numerous papers he is an avid sailor, passionate chef, photographer and first and foremost, a proud father.

Scott Adsit

Scott Adsit is best known for playing Pete Hornburger on NBC’s 30 Rock. He was a resident member of Second City’s Mainstage and ETC companies and won Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Best Actor Award for his work there.  He still improvises constantly at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Manhattan while performing and teaching around the world. His stage credits include Piñata Full Of Bees, Paradigm Lost, Citizen Gates and Old Wine In New Bottles at the Second City Chicago, The Homecoming at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, Happy at the 57th Street Theater in New York and Hamlet at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival.

Adsit has appeared in many television shows. Currently, he is appearing on HBO’s Veep. Other television credits include The Office, Inside Amy Schumer, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Person Of Interest, Alias, CSI Miami, Friends, Difficult People and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Adsit appeared on the influential sketch comedy shows Mr. Show and Tenacious D, and starred in the Adult Swim brain-melters, The Heart, She Holler and Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter. He also wrote, produced, directed and performed voices for Adult Swim’s Emmy Award-winning Moral Orel.

Adsit played Baymax in Disney’s Academy Award-winning Best Animated Feature, Big Hero 6.  Other feature works include the Christopher Guest comedy For Your Consideration, St. Vincent, We’re The Millers, The Informant, Appropriate Behavior, The Bad News Bears, Kicking and Screaming, The Terminal, The Italian Job and Lovely and Amazing.