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Laurie Leshin Returns to NASA as Director of Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Laurie Leshin, the president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, will serve as the new director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and vice president of the California Institute of Technology, effective May 16.

She will succeed retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Larry James, who serves as JPL’s interim director and will retain his role as deputy director upon succession, JPL said Thursday. James has been filling in for Michael Watkins, who retired in August.

Leshin brings over two decades of leadership experience, having held roles at NASA and the White House.

The established geochemist and space scientist was the director of science and exploration at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. She received a promotion to become the center’s deputy director for science and technology in 2008.

The space science professional transitioned out of NASA in 2011 to serve as the dean of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s school of science.

Leshin helped President George W. Bush implement U.S. policy on space exploration in 2004 and became part of President Barack Obama’s advisory board on the National Air and Space Museum in 2013.

She is also the recipient of multiple awards including the Meteoritical Society’s Nier Prize and NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal.

Caltech manages the JPL federally funded research and development center for the space agency.