Directorate Chief Scientist, Planetary Science

Job Details

Job ID: 12307

New ideas are all around us, but only a few will change the world. That’s our focus at JPL. We ask the biggest questions, then search the universe for answers—literally. We build upon ideas that have guided generations, then share our discoveries to inspire generations to come. Your mission—your opportunity—is to seek out the answers that bring us one step closer. If you’re driven to discover, create, and inspire something that lasts a lifetime and beyond, you’re ready for JPL. Located in Pasadena, California, JPL has a campus-like environment situated on 177 acres in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and offers a work environment unlike any other: we inspire passion, foster innovation, build collaboration, and reward excellence.


In this position, you will be the Chief Scientist for the Planetary Science Directorate and report to the Planetary Science Director for (400). 

You have responsibility for providing scientific leadership in:  1. the development of JPL Planetary Science Directorate and Lab strategy, 2. interfacing with the science community in advanced program and mission planning and, 3. providing the vision for JPL Planetary Science Directorate activities, and ensuring the missions flown implement NASA Planetary Science strategy. 

Will interface with the science community, NASA HQ, Planetary Science Directorate leadership, the science elements of planetary projects, and industry.  Will appoint Project Scientists for Planetary Missions with approval of the JPL Chief Scientist.

  • Serves as authority, as recognized by external peers, to lead the definition of the state-of-the-art and emerging technologies or approaches in scientific or technical field or discipline
  • Develops new approaches for scientific investigations (experimental, theoretical and/or data analysis) that impact JPL strategic goals
  • Establishes strategic framework that positions internal/ external resources for achieving scientific advances in missions, projects, and programs
  • Serves as primary JPL representative and recognized scientific and influential leader and authority in the community
  • Maintains a highly developed scientific network for identifying collaborators
  • Major contributor (author and/or peer reviewer) on high-impact publications, expert standing in the field
  • Presents or presides at workshops and national/ international conferences; provides invited talks
  • Recognize and nurture the next generation of JPL science leadership

NOTE:  This is a 4-year position and is renewable one time.


  • PhD in Science, with typically a minimum of 15 years of related experience.
  • Broad multidisciplinary knowledge in planetary science and/or astrobiology with demonstrated expertise in several specialties.
  • Significant experience in established practices and standards across a broad range of applications in planetary science and/or astrobiology.
  • Multidisciplinary and in-depth expertise regularly used in the application, promotion, and development of cutting-edge principles, theories, concepts, measurements, and emerging technologies in planetary science and/or astrobiology.
  • Multidisciplinary and expert knowledge of and significant experience in field of knowledge to provide leadership oversight and monitoring of applications in planetary science mission
  • Extensive experience in science planning and science prioritization
  • Thorough understanding of NASA planetary science and astrobiology strategic plans, missions and relevant priorities including processes for science development and selection
  • Ability to anticipate and understand the science needs of future flight projects
  • Demonstrated leadership skills and experience with the science management of small and large projects in a cost-capped, schedule-constrained environment.
  • Experience building and working with diverse science and engineering communities.
  • Demonstrated experience advocating for new mission or instrument opportunities of strategic relevance to JPL with the science community.
  • Extensive experience in achieving consensus decisions on scientific and program issues that include academia, industry, government partners, as well as the public.
  • Team player with excellent interpersonal and presentation skills.

Additional Desired Qualifications

  • Expert knowledge of strategic Laboratory policies and procedures, NASA policies and procedures, and government regulations across a range of applications.
  • Recognized expert and authority within planetary science and/or astrobiology
  • Thorough knowledge of the current Decadal Survey mission priorities and science objectives
  • Significant experience performing independent research on planetary science
  • Proven capabilities in developing competitive proposals for research, missions, and instruments and leading multidisciplinary teams in top-level strategic planning for planetary science missions
  • Experience with science research and analysis processes within JPL, NASA, other NASA centers, and universities. Demonstrated skills working with NASA HQ, JPL line/program organizations, JPL executive management and the science community

Work Authorization

U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident

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JPL is an Equal Opportunity Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to sex, race, color, religion, national origin, citizenship, ancestry, age, marital status, physical or mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, pregnancy or perceived pregnancy, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, protected military or veteran status or any other characteristic or condition protected by Federal, state or local law.

In addition, JPL is a VEVRAA Federal Contractor.

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The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a federal facility. Due to rules imposed by NASA, JPL will not accept applications from citizens of designated countries or those born in a designated country unless they are Legal Permanent Residents of the U.S or have other protected status under 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3). The Designated Countries List is available here.