POC: Charles K. Gatebe, Phone: 301-614-6228, Email:

Maniac Talks are about what inspired people to do what they are doing now in their career. It's about their driving forces and motivators and what keeps them going. It's about how they overcome obstacles. The format of the talks is informal and discussion is encouraged. All talks are recorded/taped and archived at GSFC Library. The talks are also available on YouTube:

February 28, 2018 Christa D. Peters-Lidard Deputy Director for Hydrosphere, Biosphere, and Geophysics, Earth Sciences Division, NASA GSFC.
March 28, 2018 Elizabeth Middleton Code 618, Mission Scientist for Earth Observer 1 (EO-1) satellite.
April 18, 2018 Gavin A. Schmidt Director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)
May 23, 2018 Dennis Andrucyk Deputy Associate Administrator, NASA HQ.
June 27, 2018 Christopher J. Scolese Director, Goddard Space Flight Center
September 26, 2018 Gerald R. North Distinguished Professor and Holder of the Harold J. Haynes Endowed Chair in Geosciences at Texas A&M University
November 13, 2018 Robert W. Corell Chair of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment and a Principal for the Global Environment Technology Foundation

Editor's note: information herein culled from NASA, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, various universities, and other online sources). The YouTube terms of service agreement can be found at


William Lau Maniac Lecture

24 January

Dr. William Lau, Deputy Director for Atmospheres, Earth Science Division at NASA Goddard, presented a Maniac Talk entitled "My Story: A Tale of Three Continents." Bill shared his early childhood under a colonial education system with strong Chinese cultural influence and how world events, cultural and education system of three major continents, Europe, Asia and North America shaped his upbringing career goals and work ethics.


Prior to retirement in 2014, Deputy Director for Atmospheres, Earth Sciences Division, NASA GSFC

Dr. William K. M. Lau received his B. Sc. and B. Sc. Special from University of Hong Kong, both with 1st Class Honors. He received his MS and PhD from the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA. He retired in 2014 from his position as Deputy Director for Atmospheres, Earth Science Division, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He is a Senior Research Scientist with ESSIC/University of Maryland, and a Senior Science Advisor of the Hong Kong Observatory. His research work spans more than three decades covering a wide range of topics in climate dynamics, tropical and monsoon meteorology, ocean-atmosphere interaction, aerosol-water cycle interaction, climate variability and climate change.

Dr. Lau received many awards for his research and scientific leadership, including among others, the American Meteorological Society Meisinger Award for Young Scientist, the NASA John Lindsay Award, the Goddard Exceptional Achievement Medal, and the William Nordberg Award in Earth Science. In 2010, Dr. Lau was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award of the Faculty of Science, HKU, for his outstanding contribution and leadership in Asian monsoon and climate change research, and in 2011, he received the Honorary Professorship award from the School of Energy and Environment, City University of Hong Kong. He was elected President-Elect (2013-2014), and President (2015-2016) of the Atmospheric Sciences Division, American Geophysical Union. He has been a member of the AMS since 1978. He is a Goddard Senior Fellow, as well as a fellow of both the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union. He has served on numerous international science steering group and expert panels, including among others, the WMO Monsoon Climate Expert Panel, the GEWEX Science Steering Group, the ACPC (Aerosol-Cloud-Precipitation-Climate) Science Working Group, and Committee on Himalayan Glacier and Impacts on Downstream Population, National Research Council, and the US National Academy of Sciences.

Peter Hildebrand Maniac Lecture

14 February

Dr. Peter Hildebrand, Director of NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Division, presented a Maniac Talk entitled "From studies of solubility and divers breathing helium, to DOGS, then NCAR and NASA." Peter described the path that got him to where he now finds himself, with role models, mentors, a few fumbles, and a lot of love for the study of Mother Nature.


Emeritus Scientist, NASA GSFC

Prior to retirement in 2014, Dr. Peter Hildebrand, an atmospheric scientist, was the Director of the Earth Sciences Division at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Previously he was Chief of Goddard's Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory. His career has included service in the US Navy Weather Service, weather research at the University of Illinois and at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder Colorado. While at NCAR, he was Deputy Manager of the Research Aviation Facility, and then Manager of the Remote Sensing Facility. Dr. Hildebrand has received several awards, including one at NCAR for the development of the Eldora Airborne Weather Radar, and one at NASA for earth science management leadership. He is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and a Senior Member of the Institute for Electronic and Electrical Engineers. He received his degrees from the University of Chicago, and is a frequent speaker on climate change.

Henning Leidecker Maniac Lecture

26 March

NASA physicist, Dr. Henning Leidecker, presented a Maniac Talk, entitled "How I came to NASA to fix Spacecraft ..." Henning talked about his life, from earliest memories to now, pondering how things work. And how a single tiny incandescent lamp killed 3 GOES, HST gyros running down, and exploding parts in TDRS, and why the Shuttle repeatedly failed to launch, and the underlying physics.


Chair, Goddard Senior Fellows, NASA GSFC

Dr. Henning Leidecker works as a Failure Analyst at NASA Goddard, where he maintained the NASA Tin Whisker Homepage from 2004-2012. He attended the Catholic University of America, earning his BA in 1963 and a PhD in 1968. As a physics professor at The American University (1967 – 1985), he taught courses in Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics, Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Electricity & Magnetism, Solid State Physics, and Methods of Mathematical Physics, among others. At Goddard Space Flight Center, he worked in the Materials Branch from 1985 to 1996, in the Assurance Technologies Division from 1996 to the GSFC reorganization, and has been in Code 562 to present.

While at Goddard, Dr. Leidecker has received several awards, including the QASAR Award for Safety & Mission Assurance for contributions to the safety of NASA programs for 1999 and again for 2000; the Robert C. Baumann Memorial Award For Contributions to Mission Success; the Flight Awareness Award; a NASA Agency Exceptional Service Medal in 2003; a NASA Agency Outstanding Leadership Award for 2004 and a GSFC Award of Merit in 2004, and in 2005, a NASA Agency Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal. Dr. Leidecker was awarded a patent for the manufacturing of nanotubes in 2004.

Anne Thompson Maniac Lecture

30 April

NASA climate scientist Dr. Anne Thompson presented a Maniac Talk entitled "A Career in Many Ozone Layers." Anne shared some of her long scientific career both as a researcher at Goddard and Meteorology professor at Penn State. She also described some of the problems she has worked on and tried to convey an enthusiasm for Earth Observations


Goddard Senior Fellow, NASA GSFC

Dr. Anne Thompson’s research interests include investigations of tropospheric chemical and dynamical processes, from air-sea gas exchange to interactions with the lower stratosphere. Her work in the 1980s and early 1990s was among the first to link chemical changes, climate forcings and the earth’s oxidizing capacity. Trends of atmospheric ozone and the interaction of natural variability and human influence (biomass fires, urban pollution) are ongoing themes of research that employs satellite data from a variety of atmospheric and land-surface sensors. A veteran of a dozens of NASA aircraft missions, ground-based campaigns and oceanographic cruises, Dr. Thompson was Co-Mission Scientist for SONEX (1997) and is PI for the SHADOZ (Southern Hemisphere Additional Ozonesondes) tropical validation network. She is a PI on NASA’s Air Quality Applied Sciences (AQAST) Team, SEAC4RS and DISCOVER-AQ, and a Co-I on the NSF DANCE project to measure reactive nitrogen off coastal DelMarVa. A member of Goddard’s Laboratory for Atmosphere for 20 years, Dr. Thompson was a Professor of Meteorology at Pennsylvania State University for eight years before re-joining GSFC in 2013. Community contributions have included membership on AMS and AGU Councils and past President of the International Commission on Atmospheric Chemistry and Atmospheric Chemistry and the AGU Atmospheric Sciences Section. Among awards she has received: Verner Suomi Award, American Meteorological Society (2012); Reginald & Muriel Noble Distinguished Lecturer, Physics Dept, University of Toronto (2011); Fulbright Scholar Award, South Africa (2010); Penn State Univ., College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award (2009); and UNEP/WMO Recognition Letter (for Nobel Peace Prize IPCC Contributions) (2007).

James Garvin Maniac Lecture

28 May

Dr. James Garvin, Chief Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, presented a Maniac Talk entitled "From Brownian Motion to Mars, by way of hockey on the rocks." Jim shared how his passion for rocks and landscapes drove him to promote new remote sensing approaches for measuring their topologies and led to founding of the Mars Science Laboratory and its Curiosity Rover.


Chief Scientist, NASA GSFC

A veteran Earth and planetary scientist, Dr. James Garvin has a 20+-year career within NASA. Currently he is leading a team of scientists who are using the Hubble Space Telescope to explore the lunar surface at ultraviolet wavelengths in search of potential resources in support of the Vision for Space Exploration. He was a member of Sally Ride's post-Challenger team, and chaired the 1999-2001 NASA Decadal Planning Team (for Exploration), as well as the requirements definition team for the 2008 Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission. He has been a Co-Investigator on the Mars Observer, Mars Global Surveyor, NEAR-Shoemaker, Radarsat and ENVISAT missions. Dr. Garvin was integral to the creation of the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) experiment and led the scientific investigation of impact cratering processes for Mars using MOLA topographic data; additionally, he served as the chief scientist on the two flights of the Shuttle Laser Altimeter (SLA) experiment on STS-72 and STS-85. His expertise includes the geology and geophysics of impact craters; he has participated in expeditions to various terrestrial impact sites, and has led more than a dozen aircraft laser remote sensing campaigns to locations ranging from Iceland, Mt. St. Helens, and islands in the Caribbean (to name a few). He was NASA's Project Scientist for the Earth System Science Pathfinder program during the first five years of its existence.

Prior to coming to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Dr. Garvin served as the NASA Chief Scientist, advising three separate Administrators, as well as serving as the Chief Scientist for Mars exploration from 2000 – 2004. With his involvement, direction and strategy, NASA selected such missions as the Mars Exploration Rovers, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Phoenix polar lander, and the Mars Science Laboratory. Dr. Garvin received two NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals for his work with the science behind the Mars Exploration Program. He earned his Ph.D. from Brown University, as well as an MS from Stanford University and a second MS from Brown. He graduated with highest honors from Brown, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, was elected a Trustee of Brown University, and was the 2005 William Rogers award recipient (Brown University) for his contributions to society.

Aprille Joy Ericsson Maniac Lecture

June 25

Dr. Aprille Joy Ericsson, Deputy to the Chief Technologist for the Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, presented a Maniac Talk entitled, "A Rocket Scientist grows up in Brooklyn (NY)." Aprille shared her journey of being in a Tom-girl growing up in the Bed-Sty Projects in Brooklyn (NY) with a budding interest in STEAM to becoming a Rocket Scientist for NASA. And the impact of watching men going to the moon and the ah-ha moments!


Instrument Project Manager and Technologist, NASA GSFC

Dr. Aprille Ericsson obtained her Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering from M.I.T. She was the first female (and the first African-American female) to receive a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Howard University and the first African-American female at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to receive a Ph.D. in engineering. She has won many awards, including the 1997 "Women in Science and Engineering" award for the best female engineer in the federal government and the 1999 NASA Goddard Honor Award for Excellence in Outreach (Individual). She is currently the instrument manager for a proposed mission to bring dust from the Martian lower atmosphere back to Earth among many other projects both completed and still working on. An abundance of her NASA career has been spent researching the ability of spacecrafts to handle aerodynamic pressures, such as altitudes and gravitational pulls. Among her many awards are the NASA Goddard Honor Award for Excellence in Outreach (1998), the NASA Center of Excellence Award for the TRMM Project (1998), the NASA Customer Service Excellence Award for MAP Flight Software (1999), and the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal (2002).

Jack Kaye Maniac Lecture

July 23

Dr. Jack Kaye, Associate Director for Research at NASA Headquarters presented a Maniac Talk entitled, "An Unlikely but Rewarding Journey--From Quantum Chemistry to Earth Science Research Program Leadership." Jack took stock of his 30+ years at NASA, noting the people, opportunities, lessons learned, and choices that helped him get to where he is today and accomplish what he have.


Associate Director for Research of the Earth Science Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC

Dr. Jack Kaye currently serves as Associate Director for Research of the Earth Science Division (ESD) within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD). He has been a member of the Senior Executive Service since August, 1999, managing NASA’s Earth Science Research Program. Earlier positions in his more than 30-year career at NASA include being a Space Scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center and Manager of the Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling and Analysis Program at NASA HQ. In addition, he has held temporary acting positions as Deputy Director of ESD and Deputy Chief Scientist for Earth Science within SMD. His academic training is in chemistry (B.S. Adelphi University, 1976; Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, 1982). He also held a post-doctoral research associateship at the US Naval Research Laboratory. As Associate Director for Research, Dr. Kaye is responsible for the research and data analysis programs for Earth System Science, covering the broad spectrum of scientific disciplines that constitute it.

He represents NASA in many interagency and international activities and has been an active participant in the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) in which he has served for several years as NASA principal and Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Global Change Research (from Jan., 2009 through May, 2010 he served as the Acting Chair for these activities). He also serves as NASA’s representative to the Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology. He previously completed a six-year term as a member of the Steering Committee for the Global Climate Observing System and currently serves an ex officio member of the National Research Council’s Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability and the Chemical Sciences Roundtable. He has received numerous NASA awards (most recently, the Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2009), as well as been recognized as a Meritorious Executive in the Senior Executive Service in 2004 and 2010, and named as a Fellow by the American Meteorological Society in 2010 and the American Association of the Advancement of Science in 2014. He was elected to serve as co-secretary of the Atmospheric Sciences Section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) for 1998-2000 and earlier served on the AGU Publications Committee. The AGU has recognized him on two occasions with a Citation for Excellence in Refereeing. He has published more than 50 refereed papers, contributed to numerous reports, books, and encyclopedias, and edited the book Isotope Effects in Gas-Phase Chemistry for the American Chemical Society. In addition, he has attended the Leadership for Democratic Society program at the Federal Executive Institute and the Harvard Senior Managers in Government Program a the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Pawan K. Bhartia Maniac Lecture

August 27

NASA climate scientist Dr. P.K. Bhartia presented a Maniac Talk entitled "Maxwell Demon, Black Swan and a Romp in Scientific Hinterlands." PK discussed his roller coaster career, which got nearly derailed after a brief tryst with history and his obsession for understanding esoteric details of measurements that once in a while leads to something interesting.


Senior Scientist, Atmospheric Chemistry & Dynamics Laboratory, NASA GSFC

Dr. Pawan K. Bhartia is an internationally known expert on ultraviolet remote sensing of Earth from space. He developed the algorithms that have been used to produce ozone data from SBUV and TOMS series of instruments, and is a co-developer of the TOMS aerosol retrieval algorithm that produces unique daily global maps of smoke and dust, and can directly measure aerosol absorption from space. Algorithms and calibration techniques developed under Dr. Bhartia’s direction have been adapted by groups around the world to process data from advanced hyperspectral instruments on US and European satellites, including the OMI instrument currently flying on the EOS Aura satellite, and the OMPS instrument suite on the Suomi NPP satellite. He is currently serving as the OMPS-LP Sensor Team Lead. Among his awards are the Remote Sensing Prize, AMS (2014); the Distinguished Service Medal, NASA (2013); and Yoram J. Kaufman Award, AGU, Atmospheric Sciences Section (2012).

Brian Dennis Maniac Lecture

September 24

NASA Solar Physicist Dr. Brian Dennis presented a Maniac Talk entitled "From Picking Potatoes to Measuring the Biggest Bangs in the Solar System -- Always a Farm Boy!" Brian described his formative years in England, then summarized our present understanding of how solar flares work and reviewed possible advances in instrumentation that could lead to major breakthroughs in the future.


Solar Physics Laboratory, NASA GSFC

Dr. Brian R. Dennis was educated in England at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Horncastle, Lincolnshire, and at the University of Leeds, Yorkshire. He received his Ph.D. at Leeds in 1964 and immediately moved to the United States to become a research associate at the University of Rochester, New York. He became a National Research Council (NRC) Resident Research Associate at Goddard Space Flight Center in 1967, a government employee at GSFC as an astrophysicist in 1969, and a U.S. citizen in 1975. Working in the Solar Physics Branch at Goddard, Dr. Dennis has been involved in designing, building, operating, and analyzing data from several X-ray and gamma-ray instruments for observations of solar flares and cosmic X-ray sources. He was a Co-investigator of the Celestial X-Ray Spectrometer on the 8th Orbiting Solar Observatory and Principal Investigator (PI) of the Hard X-Ray Burst Spectrometer on the Solar Maximum Mission (SMM). He co-chaired the Max 91 program to coordinate observations of solar activity during the solar maximum centered around 1991. He is the Mission Scientist and lead Co-I of the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI), a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX) mission launched on 5 February 2002. In 2004, Dr. Dennis received the Goddard Lindsay Award and a NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for over two decades of work in high energy solar physics that has culminated with the ongoing success of RHESSI.

James Irons Maniac Lecture

October 22

Dr. James Irons, Deputy Director of NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Division, presented a Maniac Talk entitled "Balancing Precariously on Giants' Shoulders; Landsat and Project Science." Jim shared his 35 years experience and observations working across GSFC Directorates to play a role in a couple of successful Landsat missions.


Deputy Director, Earth Sciences Division, NASA GSFC

Dr. James (Jim) Irons is the Deputy Director of the Earth Sciences Division (ESD) at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). The ESD provides scientific leadership to achieve NASA's strategic goals in Earth science studies (biosphere, atmospheric, oceanic, geologic processes and their interactions) through the analysis, interpretation, and application of data obtained from instruments from space complemented by airborne, ground-based, and laboratory measurements. He participates jointly with the Director of ESD in managing all aspects of Division responsibilities, including scientific research planning, concept development for new missions, supervision of staff, budget and workforce planning, and, in the Director's absence, may act with full authority in the management of the Division. Dr. Irons is also the NASA Landsat 8 Project Scientist; in that capacity, he works with NASA's partner in the Landsat program, the U.S. Geological Survey, to ensure that mission operations meet science requirements following the February 11, 2013 launch of Landsat 8 (known as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission before launch). Prior to 2007, he worked 28 years as a physical scientist in the Biospheric Sciences Branch, NASA GSFC, where he served as the Landsat 7 Deputy Project Scientist beginning in 1992. He then served as the Associate Deputy Director for Atmospheres from 2007 to 2013 and as the Deputy Director for Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences in 2014. Dr. Irons received his B.Sc. degree and M.Sc. degree from the Pennsylvania State University. He received his Ph.D. degree in agronomy in 1993 from the University of Maryland College Park.

John Mather Maniac Lecture

November 19

Nobel Laureate John Mather presented a Maniac Talk entitled "Creating the Future: Building JWST, what it may find, and what comes next?" In this lecture, John takes a rear view look at how James Webb Space Telescope was started, what it can see and what it might discover. He describes the hardware, what it was designed to observe, and speculate about the surprises it might uncover. He also outlines a possible future of space observatories: what astronomers want to build, what we need to invent, and what they might find, even the chance of discovering life on planets around other stars.


Nobel Prize Winner in Physics (2006), Senior Project Scientist for the JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) at NASA GSFC

Dr. John Mather is a Senior Astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, where his research centers on infrared astronomy and cosmology. He received a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College (PA) and a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. As a National Research Council (NRC) postdoctoral fellow at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS, NY), he led the proposal efforts for the Cosmic Background Explorer. Dr. Mather came to GSFC to be the Study Scientist and then Project Scientist on COBE, and also was the Principal Investigator for the Far IR Absolute Spectrophotometer (FIRAS) on COBE. He and the COBE team showed that the cosmic microwave background radiation has a blackbody spectrum within 50 parts per million (ppm), confirming the Big Bang theory to extraordinary accuracy.

Since 1995, he has been Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, leading the science team and representing scientific interests within the project management. He has served on advisory and working groups for the National Academy of Sciences, NASA, and NSF for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), and the Center for Astrophysical Research in the Antarctic (CAMA). He has received many awards, including the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics, which he shares with George F. Smoot of the University of California for their work using the COBE satellite to measure the heat radiation from the Big Bang.