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JPL Names First Woman To Lead The Renowned Space Research Lab

A group of nine people stand at a long table celebrating with hands in their air. Many wear orange ID badges around their necks.
Laurie Leshin, second from left, celebrates the landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover on Aug. 5, 2012, with other members of the science teams at JPL.
(Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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For the first time in its history, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be led by a woman. Laurie Leshin, currently the president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, will take over as the JPL director this May.

Leshin, who will also be a Caltech vice president, says there's "no better place in the universe" than JPL to indulge in her "space nerdiness."

"I'm really excited about helping to drive our science missions forward about helping to develop the technology that's going to allow us to explore further and deeper into space," she said.

Leshin also broke ground at Worcester Polytechnic where she was the first woman to lead in the institute's 150-year history.

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"Leshin stood out in an exhaustive international search" for several reasons, Caltech president Thomas Rosenbaum said in a statement. Those reason, he said, include "her ability to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

Leshin graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Arizona State University, and earned her master's and doctoral degrees in geochemistry from Caltech.

Her career led her to academia, NASA and two White House appointments. But she credits Caltech and JPL for providing some of the most significant experiences of her career.

Leshin looks forward to answering "awe-inspiring" scientific questions and improving life on earth through robotic space exploration.

"I know from personal experience that diverse teams make greater impact," she said, "and I will work every day to ensure that JPL is a place where all belong and thrive. We will dare mighty things, together.”