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Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) Director

Houston, Texas (US)
Competitive Salary plus benefits
Closing date
May 9, 2024

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Planetary Sciences
Career Level
Education Level
Job Type
Relocation Cost
Sector Type
Non-Government Organization/Non-Profit

Job Details

USRA  is seeking a Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) Director

Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is an independent, nonprofit research corporation seeking a Director for the Lunar and Planetary Institute. The Director of the LPI provides scientific leadership for and management of the research program and operations of the Institute to maintain it as a premier research center supporting NASA's strategic goals in lunar and planetary sample science and exploration of the Solar System. The Director oversees multiple activities carried out by the LPI, including conducting cutting-edge scientific research through grants and contracts; running highly successful conferences and workshops, including the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference; training and providing resources for early-career researchers; connecting the public to planetary science through a variety of events and activities; and providing extensive library and digital resources to the planetary science community. The LPI enjoys a strong partnership with the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), facilitated by the proximity of the two organizations and historic collaborations.

In addition to ensuring the institute's smooth operation, the Director will identify new opportunities to leverage NASA's base funding to strengthen and broaden the LPI's research funding. The Director is expected to lead and further develop the LPI vision and mission by engaging the LPI team, LPI Science Council, and the planetary science community.

Essential Duties/Responsibilities:

  • Meet all the obligations and commitments in LPI's funding agreements with NASA. This includes the new Expanding NASA’s Community for Planetary Sample Science (ENComPSS) project funded under the Support for Planetary Sample Science (SPSS) Cooperative Agreement (CA) with NASA. It also includes oversight of the “ARES CA” and the “LPI CA.”  Obligations may include the extension and/or the closeout of these agreements when deemed appropriate by NASA, including submission of progress and/or final reports. Supervise and mentor a staff of permanent and temporary scientists. Provide oversight and guidance to LPI meeting coordinators and conference planners, education and public engagement professionals, library and communications professionals, and administrative staff, as well as provide direction to matrixed business, IT, and human resources staff. Maintain excellent relationships with NASA Headquarters, NASA/JSC, and other NASA stakeholders through regular interactions. Maintain a presence in the appropriate research fields, including maintaining an active research program with ongoing publication and funding activities. Develop and maintain a high profile with the planetary science community by participating in and leading review and advisory panels (e.g., National Academies and NASA advisory and review panels). Develop tactical and strategic plans to ensure that the Institute remains responsive to NASA's goals for planetary exploration. Identify and pursue new initiatives within the scope of the LPI’s funding agreements and in consultation with appropriate stakeholders. Provide monthly, quarterly, and annual reports to various stakeholders, including NASA and USRA Headquarters.

Required Qualifications:

  • Ph.D. in one of the following fields: geosciences, planetary sciences, physics, astronomy, or associated fields. At least 15+ years of experience past the Ph.D. level. At least 7 + years of experience in an equivalent position, such as a Program Director, Department Chair, or developer of a multi-year project with a budget of more than $1 million. At least 7+ years of experience in personnel management.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

  • At least 7+ years of proven management experience for multi-disciplinary programs and/or scientific organizations. Experience in managing complex, multi-year budgets. Proven record of writing and obtaining large research/mission grants or contracts funding. Interest in science communication through public engagement and outreach. Experience as a sample scientist with extraterrestrial materials (e.g., meteorites and/or samples from missions such as Apollo, Stardust, OSIRIS-Rex, etc.) preferred. Familiarity with multiple planetary disciplines, e.g., astrochemistry, astrobiology, Solar System exploration, etc. Demonstrated record of mentoring early- to mid-career scientists and developing and maintaining a diverse workforce.

This position is based in Houston.

Application Deadline: May 17, 2024.

Applicants should apply for the USRA Careers posting and include a letter of interest, resume, or curriculum vitae. Additional information on USRA can be found at

USRA is an Equal Opportunity Employer: Minorities / Females / Protected Veterans / Disabled / Sexual Orientation / Gender Identity



USRA is an independent, nonprofit research corporation where the combined efforts of in-house talent and university-based expertise merge to advance space science and technology. USRA works across disciplines including bio medicine, planetary science, astrophysics, and engineering and integrates those competencies into applications ranging from fundamental research to facility management and operations. USRA engages the creativity and authoritative expertise of the research community to develop and deliver sophisticated, forward-looking solutions to Federal agencies and other customers - on schedule and within budget.

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