2018 SPEAKERS

Tom Armstrong

Tom Armstrong

President, Madison River Group, LLC

Thomas R. Armstrong is President of the Madison River Group (MRG). Prior to MRG, Dr. Armstrong served within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as the Executive Director of the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). He was the lead in the development of the USGCRP’s Ten Year Strategic Plan (2012-2021) and a key player in the Third National Climate Assessment, the President’s Climate Action Plan, and other activities of the Federal climate change enterprise. He also served as the U.S. Head of Delegation to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, the Chair of Sustaining Arctic Observing Systems (SAON) and the Deputy Director of the Community on Earth Observing Systems (CEOS). Before Joining the White House, Tom served as the Department of the Interior’s (DOI’s) Senior Advisor for Climate Change and helped implement Executive Order S.O. 3289 on climate.

Sirisha Bandla

Sirisha Bandla

Business Development & Government Affairs Manager, Virgin Orbit

Sirisha Bandla currently works at Virgin Orbit in the D.C. operations office on Government Affairs and Business Development, supporting both LauncherOne and SpaceShipTwo programs, specifically for science and technology payloads. Previously, Sirisha served as the Associate Director for the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an industry association of commercial spaceflight companies. At CSF, Sirisha works on various policies with the aim to promote the commercial space industry and make commercial human spaceflight a reality. Before CSF, she worked as an aerospace engineer designing components for advanced aircraft at L-3 Communications in Greenville, Texas. 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.

Nancy Conrad

Nancy Conrad

Founder and Chairman, Conrad Foundation

Nancy Conrad created the Conrad Foundation in 2008 to energize and engage students in STEM through unique entrepreneurial opportunities. The organization’s flagship program, the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge, is a global competition challenging teams of high school students to combine education, innovation and entrepreneurship to create products or services to solve global challenges in sustainability.

Ms. Conrad has been a featured speaker at national and international conferences. Among her presentations are TED, MIT the Global Competiveness Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and the Global Diversity Leadership Conference at Harvard University. As a leader in transformative education, she has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology detailing how the Conrad Foundation exemplifies the use of partnership and mentorship to improve STEM education. She has been named one of the top 100 leaders in STEM Education.

Bill Diamond

Bill Diamond

President and CEO, SETI Institute

Bill Diamond, is President and CEO of the SETI Institute, which he joined in 2015.  Most of his career has been spent in applied technologies, with over 20 years of experience in photonics and optical communications in Silicon Valley.  His corporate background spans the spectrum from venture-backed start-ups to Fortune 100 multinationals, with responsibilities ranging from engineering and operations to sales, marketing, product management and CEO positions.  Most recently, Diamond was Vice President of Sales for Oclaro, Inc. where he led the company’s penetration in optical networking of the rapidly-evolving Web 2.0 Data Center market. Prior to that, he was Vice President of Product Management for optical amplifiers, ROADM, high bit-rate modules, and micro-optics. Bill held CEO positions at WaveSplitter Technologies, DenseLight Semiconductor, and Xradia, Inc., now part of Zeiss. His photonics background also includes six years with AT&T Bell Laboratory’s Optoelectronics business unit and he served as President of US operations for the Swiss technology company, Comet A.G. Bill Diamond holds a B.A. in physics from Holy Cross College and a Masters in business administration from Georgetown University.

Shiva Dustdar

Shiva Dustdar

Head of Division Innovation Finance Advisory, European Investment Bank

Shiva heads the Innovation Finance Advisory Division in the EIB. She has been at the EIB since 2003, first in Risk Management, then in its Lending Directorate financing higher risk, innovative projects before joining the Advisory Services Department. Before EIB, Shiva was Director of High Yield at Fitch Rating Agency developing its European High Yield rating business and worked in the M&A Advisory and Emerging Markets Investment Banking Group at J.P. Morgan in New York and London. Shiva holds a BA in Economics from Columbia University and an Executive MBA from London Business School (LBS). In 2000, Shiva co-founded the European High Yield Association (EHYA), which is now part of the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME). In 2006, Credit Magazine nominated Shiva to its Top 50 Women in Credit.

Jeff Goldstein

Jeff Goldstein

Center Director, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education

Dr. Jeff Goldstein is a nationally recognized science educator and planetary scientist who has dedicated his career to the public understanding of science. As Center Director he oversees the creation and delivery of national STEM education initiatives with a focus on earth and space. Initiatives provide a window on the nature of science and the lives of modern-day explorers, with emphasis on not just what is known about Earth and space but how it has come to be known. Programs embrace a Learning Community Model for STEM education. Jeff created the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, engaging 86,800 grade 5-16 students in microgravity experiment design, with 18,760 experiment proposals from student teams, and 240 experiments selected for operation on ISS. As Director of the Voyage National Program, he led the inter-organizational team that permanently installed the Voyage model Solar System on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and now oversees permanent installation of replicas in communities across the U.S.

Simon Halpern

Simon Halpern

Founder & CEO, Phase Four

Simon Halpern is the founder and CEO of Phase Four, a provider of electric radio frequency (RF) thrusters for in-space propulsion. A serial space entrepreneur, Halpern’s first company, Aether Industries, a high-altitude balloon services company, was acquired by Apple in 2015. He has over 13 years of space industry experience with some of the most respected names in the industry. Halpern began his career as a Space Systems Engineer for Ball Aerospace, and later joined Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. He went on to support the growth of aerospace companies including Spire Global, Applied Ballistics and Mobi-Wize. Today, Simon and his team are enabling the exponential growth of satellite constellations by solving the costliest barrier facing widespread adoption, the propulsion system. Phase Four’s electric RF thruster is the smallest plasma propulsion system available, and can be scaled for use in CubeSats, small sats and large satellite constellations.

Candice Hovell

Candice Hovell

Head of Research and Development, SpacePharma Inc.

Candice Hovell is the Head of Research and Development for SpacePharma Inc., an innovative start up company located in Merritt Island, Florida. SpacePharma is increasing access to the unique environment of space via our automated laboratory platforms that enable researchers to remotely conduct research in low Earth orbit. Prior to joining SpacePharma, Candice earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the joint Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University program and her B.S. in Chemical and Biological Engineering from the University of Alabama. As a former NSF Graduate Research Fellow and ORISE Fellow, Candice leverages her 9 years of hands on experience working in research to help clients identify and obtain funding sources for space-based research and to translate their benchtop research protocols to our remote controlled SpacePharma Advanced Laboratory systems (SPAd Labs). In addition to her role with SpacePharma, Candice is a former Rural Health Scholar and is very passionate about educational outreach programs and mentorship in rural communities.

Mark Jackson

Mark Jackson

Founder, Science Partnership Fund; Scientific Lead of Business Development, Cambridge Quantum Computing

Mark Jackson received his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from Columbia University. He spent 15 years researching superstring cosmology, authoring almost 40 research articles. Recognizing the emerging importance of private scientific funding, he then founded Fiat Physica, a crowdfunding platform devoted to the advancement of physics, astronomy and space exploration, and the Science Partnership Fund, to facilitate foundations and corporations supporting scientific public events. He is currently Scientific Lead of Business Development at Cambridge Quantum Computing, and has appeared in video expositions about quantum computing, data science, artificial intelligence, and others. He has delivered lectures in 19 countries, and spoken as an expert on multiple panels. Finally, Jackson is Faculty at Singularity University and a Director of the BoldlyGo Institute and Astronomers Without Borders.

Patricia Jacobberger

Patricia Jacobberger

Senior Advisor, NASA's Earth Science Division

Patricia Jacobberger, Ph. D is Senior Advisor in NASA’s Earth Science Division. She has responsibility for the development and coordination of collaborations in Earth system science and observations, and leads NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge. Prior to joining NASA in 2010, she spent 25 years doing field research in Africa and working with satellite data as a scientist and educator for the Smithsonian Institution, followed by 6 years managing global change programs at the US Geological Survey.  She has extensive teaching experience, and has served as a subject matter expert for The Discovery Channel and IMAX Films. She has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and popular articles, and is a recipient of the Eugene M. Shoemaker Award for Communications Excellence. Dr. Jacobberger received her Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and her Ph.D in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Washington University in St. Louis.

Christopher D. Johnson

Christopher D. Johnson

Space Law Advisor, Secure World Foundation

Mr. Christopher Johnson is the Space Law Advisor at the Secure World Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that works with governments, industry, international organizations, and civil society to develop and promote ideas and actions for the peaceful and sustainable uses of outer space. As the resident legal expert at Secure World, he engages with stakeholders including governments, international organizations, space agencies, private industry, academia, civil society, and the media. Mr. Johnson also participates in various international legal and diplomatic fora, including the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). Mr. Johnson is also an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he co-teaches the space law seminar, and an adjunct faculty member of the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, where he serves as the 2018 Space Policy, Economics, and Law Department Chair.

Amy Kaminski

Amy Kaminski

Program Executive for Prizes and Challenges, NASA HQ

Dr. Amy Kaminski serves as program executive for prizes and challenges at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, where she develops strategies to expand the space agency’s use of open innovation methods in pursuit of its mission.  In her prior role as senior policy advisor in NASA’s Office of the Chief Scientist, she led an initiative to support NASA’s involvement of citizens as contributors to its research activities.  Kaminski has also held positions at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.  Kaminski holds a Ph.D. in science and technology studies from Virginia Tech, an M.A. in science, technology, and public policy from The George Washington University, and a B.A. from Cornell University in earth and planetary sciences.

Elizabeth Kennick

Elizabeth Kennick

President, Teachers In Space, Inc.

Elizabeth (Liz) Kennick is President of Teachers in Space, Inc. Formerly Vice President of Client Technology at Morgan Stanley, she now splits her time between developing and sharing exciting ways to bring space into the classroom, and speaking at aerospace and education conferences. Here’s a recent appearance on WeatherBrains.

Liz holds degrees in Information Systems / Operations Analysis and Education and is certified as a Project Management Professional and as a Network Engineer. She is co-founder of NYC’s Software Process Improvement Network and a board member of the Lifeboat Foundation. Liz has judged business plan competitions for Space Frontier Foundation and Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, tested a commercial spacesuit on a Falcon20 parabolic flight, completed centrifuge and hypobaric chamber training, and climbed Earth’s highest extinct volcano. She competed in the 2017 Crossfit Open, currently ranking in the top 20% of Women aged 55-59.

Jason Kessler

Jason Kessler

Senior Advisor, Earth Science at Mountain Philanthropy Partners (MPP)

As Senior Advisor for Earth Science at Mountain Philanthropy Partners (MPP), Jason Kessler is guiding efforts to support practical use of Earth system science at local and regional scales over seasonal time frames to enable informed, interactive decision-making.  Jason spent nearly 15 years working at NASA, including positions as SERVIR Deputy Project Director, Deputy Chief of Staff to the NASA Administrator, the LAUNCH Program Executive, and the Asteroid Grand Challenge Program Executive.  In addition to his government experience, Jason also followed his entrepreneurial spirit and created a number of businesses outside of NASA.  Most recently and prior to joining MPP, he provided innovation consultancy to clients in the developing world.  An expert facilitator and certified leadership coach, Jason seeks to nurture partnerships and collaboration to address some of the world’s most intractable problems.

Nikolai Khlystov

Nikolai Khlystov

Aerospace Industry Lead, World Economic Forum

Nikolai Khlystov is the Aerospace Industry Lead at the World Economic Forum, the international organization for public-private collaboration with the mission of improving the state of the world. He also manages the Global Future Council on Space Technologies, which brings together global multi-stakeholder experts in the space sector. Besides being responsible for the Aerospace sector at the Forum, Nikolai is working with the Space Technologies Council to develop a Space Sustainability Rating, a non-binding industry mechanism that would help promote responsible and sustainable development of the sector. Nikolai is a graduate of the Global Leadership Fellows Master programme of the Forum; he also holds a Master degree in international business management from University of Geneva and a Bachelor degree in commerce from Carleton University in Ottawa.

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez

Technology Development Lead, Center for the Advancement of Science In Space (CASIS)

Jennifer W. Lopez is the Commercial Innovation Technology Lead at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) identifying, developing, & fostering space-based commercial R&D & breakthrough innovations for the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory. Research areas under her leadership include in-space manufacturing, IT & communications (e.g. artificial intelligence, IoT, data applications, virtual reality, augmented reality, optical communications), robotics, electronics, and other emerging technologies. As the Technology Lead, Ms. Lopez is responsible for the optimization of new technology advancements maximizing utilization of the ISS for terrestrial benefit, helping to pave the way toward commercialization beyond low Earth orbit and successful future orbiting platforms. As Founding Member of NASA’s Datanaut Corps in the Technology & Open Innovation Division, Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), she is shaping the direction of the program for NASA’s open data from NASA missions to research, answering challenges in technology, aeronautics, the Space Station, the solar system, Earth, and NASA’s Journey to Mars. Ms. Lopez serves on the Advisory Council of the Physics & Astronomy Department at Johns Hopkins University, a world leader in groundbreaking research in condensed matter physics, particle physics, astronomy, astrophysics, and is a 2017 National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

Zsuzsa Marka

Zsuzsa Marka

Associate Research Scientist, Columbia University

Zsuzsa Marka is an Associate Research Scientist at Columbia University. She works on the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) project, the experiment that in 2016 announced the first direct detection of gravitational-waves, a 100 years old prediction by Einstein.

Dr. Marka graduated from KLTE, Debrecen, Hungary with a Diploma in chemistry, and completed her PhD in physics at Vanderbilt University, TN. Beyond gravitational-wave physics, her multidisciplinary training allowed her to conduct research in a variety of topics including physical chemistry, atmospheric science, experimental physics, ion-surface interactions, non-linear optics at interfaces, and radiation effects. Dr. Marka’s main contribution to the LIGO project is leading the manufacturing and testing of a key subsystem, the timing system, for the LIGO detectors. She leads the timing diagnostics studies for the collaboration while also being involved with innovative analysis of the detector data and multimessenger searches for gravitational-wave sources.

Dr. Marka believes that educating young minds for the beauty and value of scientific endeavors is very important for progress. She volunteers to give presentations at urban schools in New York City, her LIGO interferometer demonstration has appeared at the World Science Festival street fair for many years. She strongly believes that the recognized gender and racial disparity in scientific professions – especially prominent is physics – can only be reduced with conscious efforts invested in high quality science education for all, starting at the youngest ages.

Professor Szabolcs Márka

Professor Szabolcs Márka

Walter O. LeCroy, Jr. Professor of Physics

Professor Szabolcs Márka is an astrophysicist and Professor of Physics at Columbia University. Professor Márka received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. After postdoctoral work at the California Institute of Technology, he joined the faculty of Columbia University in 2004. Professor Márka studies the birth and death of cosmic black holes and other violent cosmic events through multimessenger astrophysics using gravitational waves that he pioneered with the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Professor Márka broadened his interest with bio-optics, in part to provide innovative solutions to global health problems. He strongly believes that beyond seeking fundamental discoveries, scientists should also invest in bettering human life here on Earth through utilizing their experience and creativity. Professor Márka is the faculty winner of the 2011 Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists of the New York Academy of Sciences and co-recipient of the Breakthrough Prize and Gruber Prize of 2016. He authored over 300 peer-reviewed scholarly publications and served as the Chair of Education and Public Outreach Committee of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Professor Márka was privileged to receive the CAREER Award of the US National Science Foundation, the Grand Challenges Explorations Award of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and to be selected for “The 9th Annual Year in Ideas”, New York Times Magazine. Professor Márka’s research appeared broadly in the public media, including New York Times cover and Quote of the day, CNN, Scientific American, ABC News, Popular Science, AP, Economist, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, BBC, Forbes, Bloomberg News, Stephen Hawking’s Brave New World, National Geographic, USA Today, BBC Science, BBC Radio.

Jon Morse

Jon Morse

CEO and Chair of the Board, BoldlyGo Institute

Dr. Jon Morse is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of BoldlyGo Institute, Inc., located in New York, NY. He has more than 15 years of leadership experience in space missions, space-focused organizations, and science and innovation policy, including serving as Director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Senior Policy Analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Project Scientist for the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph aboard the Hubble Space Telescope, Associate Director of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Associate Vice President for Research for Physical Sciences & Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is a Harvard graduate and earned his Ph.D. from the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Simonetta di Pippo

Simonetta di Pippo

Director, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

Simonetta Di Pippo is the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), which is mandated to enhance international cooperation in space activities to promote their use for humanity. Prior to joining UNOOSA in 2014, she was Head of the European Space Policy Observatory at Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) in Brussels. Ms. Di Pippo also served as Director of Human Spaceflight of the European Space Agency from 2008 to 2011, and Director of the Observation of the Universe at ASI from 2002 to 2008, where she started her career in 1986. She has been an Academician of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) since 2013, and since 2016 a member of the IAA Board of Trustees.  Ms. Di Pippo is also a member of the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on space technology for 2016-18. Ms Di Pippo holds a Master’s Degree in Astrophysics and Space Physics from University “La Sapienza” in Rome, an Honoris Causa Degree in Environmental Studies from St. John University, and an Honoris Causa Degree in International Relations from John Cabot University. Ms. Di Pippo was knighted by the President of the Italian Republic in 2006. In 2008, the International Astronomical Union named asteroid 21887 “Dipippo” in honor of her contribution to space activities.

Melissa Sampson

Melissa Sampson

Program Manager, United Launch Alliance

Melissa Sampson is a program manager in Advanced Programs, involved with launch services, cislunar economy and space resources. Prior to joining Advanced Programs, she was the Building Leadership and Sustaining Talent (BLAST) program facilitator, coach and mentor, Operations Excellence Manager, Supply Chain category manager, and Executive Liaison to the Chief Operating Officer. Previous to her aerospace career, Melissa worked in the Governor’s Office of Maryland, program management, space station payloads, sales, and lobbying.

Outside the office, Melissa sits on the Board of Directors for Girls in STEM, an organization inspiring girls to visualize themselves in STEM careers. Melissa earned her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado and her B.S. in Chemistry from the College of William and Mary. She is an AIAA Associate Fellow, ULA Lean & Six Sigma Black Belt and an International Coaching Federation (ICF) certified coach.

Olivia Scharfman

Olivia Scharfman

Chair, Board of Directors for Students for the Exploration and Development of Space; Student, Yale University

Olivia Scharfman is the Chair of the Board of Directors for SEDS-USA and a Sophomore at Yale University. She is the SEDS representative to the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association, a member of the Yale Debate team, and Director of Development for thinkTANC (Theoretical and Applied Neural Computing) at Yale. She has also been a professional stage actor and member of Actor’s Equity for six years.

Jay Skylus

Jay Skylus

Founder and CEO, Aevum, Inc

Jay is the Founder of Aevum, Inc., a technology startup company developing logistics solutions and launch systems for suborbital flights and low Earth orbit deliveries for small payloads. Jay resolved to democratize access to space in 2006 after recognizing that it would enable innovative technologies and help address humanitarian challenges. As a physicist, Jay worked on autonomous space weather prediction algorithms at the Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research. At NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Jay worked on the development and demonstration of nuclear thermal rockets and autonomous, in-orbit servicing spacecraft in the NASA Flight Robotics Laboratory. Following the publication of his work in nuclear rockets and space weather at the International Astronautical Congress in Italy, Jay joined the Moon Express propulsion team in the development of ACS and bi-propellant liquid rocket engines for the MX-1 Lander, which won $1.25M from the Google Lunar XPrize. Jay served as a lead engineer at Firefly Space Systems on the FRE-R1 liquid rocket engine and in the early development of the first stage of the Alpha launch vehicle. Prior to founding Aevum in 2016, Jay served as a vehicle systems engineer and propulsion analyst on the Space Launch System (SLS) Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) at Boeing. At Aevum, Jay leads the design and development of the Ravn launch architecture, which has led to multiple patent pending technologies.

Marco Villa

Marco Villa

COO, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems Inc.

Dr. Marco Villa, is a seasoned aerospace executive.  He serves as the President and COO of Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems Inc.  His responsibilities are day-to-day management, strategic efforts, and the acquisition and execution of all satellite opportunities for government, commercial and university customers worldwide.  Dr. Villa has worked on some of the most advanced and cutting-edge programs in the aerospace industry, from technology demonstration satellites to leading commercial efforts, and has developed a unique expertise that combines business management, finance administration and technical knowledge.  Previously, Dr. Villa served as Director of Mission Operations at SpaceX managing the missions of the Dragon spacecraft to and from the International Space Station.  Additionally, as a founding partner of mv2space, Dr. Villa continues to provide broad business development expertise to the aerospace industry, including strategic planning, investment capture, and program management.

Erika Wagner

Erika Wagner

Business Development Manager, Blue Origin

Dr. Erika Wagner serves as Business Development Manager for Blue Origin, a commercial developer of vehicles and technologies to seed an enduring human presence in space. Prior to joining Blue Origin, Dr. Wagner worked with the XPRIZE Foundation as Senior Director of Exploration Prize Development and founding Executive Director of the XPRIZE Lab@MIT. Dr. Wagner’s interdisciplinary background includes biomedical and aerospace engineering, as well as organizational innovation and prize theory.

Jeannette M. Wing

Jeannette M. Wing

Avanessians Director, Data Science Institute at Columbia University

Jeannette M. Wing is Avanessians Director of the Data Science Institute and Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University.  From 2013 to 2017, she was a Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Research.  She is Consulting Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon where she twice served as the Head of the Computer Science Department and had been on the faculty since 1985.  From 2007-2010 she was the Assistant Director of the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate at the National Science Foundation.  She received her S.B., S.M., and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science, all from MIT. Wing’s general research interests are in the areas of trustworthy computing, specification and verification, concurrent and distributed systems, programming languages, and software engineering.  She received Distinguished Service Awards from the CRA and ACM.  She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, AAAS, ACM, and IEEE.

Chris Cummins

Chris Cummins

Chief Contracts Officer, NanoRacks

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