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


Arlin Krueger Maniac Lecture

February 22

NASA climate scientist Arlin Krueger presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "Why don’t you measure ozone?" Arlin started from humble beginnings in central Minnesota, fortuitous timing led to a career in atmospheric physics from the IGY (International Geophysical Year period spanning from July 1957-December 1958) through the beginning and maturing of the space age. His grad school advisor’s direction to “measure ozone” led him to develop several balloon, rocket, and satellite techniques, including rocket ozonesondes and the TOMS total ozone mapping spectrometer.


Dr. Arlin Krueger graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 1955 with a BS in Physics. From 1959 – 1969, as a Research Physicist at Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, CA, he established a high altitude balloon program, developed an ozonesonde for meteorological rockets, obtained the first direct ozone soundings in the upper stratosphere since early V-2 rocket days, and collaborated in the first satellite soundings of ozone. He joined NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in 1969 as Technical Officer for the Backscatter Ultraviolet (BUV) instrument, NASA's first space-based ozone probe carried on Nimbus-4 in 1970. BUV data confirmed the currently accepted theory of ozone chemistry. In 1976 he returned for his PhD in Atmospheric Sciences at Colorado State University. Back at Goddard he developed the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS), the instrument on the Nimbus-7 satellite that discovered the ozone hole over Antarctica, which proved ozone depletion by fluorocarbons. He then found that volcanic eruption sulfur dioxide plumes could also be mapped with TOMS. He retired from NASA in 2000 after a very successful career working on ozone and volcanology.
Dr. Krueger later joined the University of Maryland Baltimore County (2000-2010) as a research professor, where he developed the first near real-time public access to volcanic eruption and emission satellite data for hazard avoidance.

Michelle Thaller Maniac Lecture

March 22

Dr. Michelle Thaller, an Astronomer and Deputy Director of Science for Communications at NASA Headquarters, presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "Emotional Science.” As a science communicator, for years, Michelle has watched audiences, large and small, respond to science talks. All too often, she has watched the most fascinating, awe-inspiring images and discoveries fail to even keep an audience awake. Without an emotional connection to latch on to, most people do not respond to scientists, which in the past may have been innocuous –just perpetuating a stereotype of the blank, overly intellectual science personality. But in today’s world of deniers, false news, and a desperate need to address climate change, emotional irrelevance is a luxury we can no longer afford.”


Dr. Michelle Thaller graduated from Harvard University with a BS (astrophysics) in 1992 and PhD (astrophysics) from Georgia State University in 1998. From 1998-2009, Michelle worked at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and served as the public outreach lead for the Spitzer Space Telescope. From 2009 – 2015 she became an assistant director for Science Communication at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. She became the Deputy Director of Science Communication in 2015 representing all of NASA’s science themes—including Earth science and climate change, the sun and space weather, solar system exploration, cosmology and the deep universe.

Michelle is one of the regular hosts of Discovery Science Channel’s “How the Universe Works,” and also hosts the podcast “Orbital Path” on public radio. She has received several high-profile awards for online science journalism and science leadership.

Sara Tangren Maniac Lecture

April 20

Dr. Sara Ann Tangren, Agent Associate, University of Maryland Extension, presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "NASA’s Meadow Garden." Sara shared the obstacles and opportunities that repeatedly led her to choose the road less traveled, eventually becoming a regional expert on the conservation and creation of upland meadow habitat. She also discussed the conversion of a lawn to native meadow on the GSFC campus.


Sara Tangren is a Senior Agent at the University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Information Center where she teaches native plants and sustainable landscaping for the Master Gardener program. She received her Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Maryland in 2001. Her areas of specialization include plant biogeography, wetland delineation/mitigation, native landscaping, native seed production, the native plant and seed production industry, and rare plant conservation. Her restoration work has included a collaboration with the Anacostia Watershed Society to restore plant communities along the Anacostia River Bank, with the University of Maryland Arboretum & Botanical Garden to protect the rare wildflower sundial lupine, with MNCPPC to establish native meadows, and with PEPCO to restore a native meadow community. She established the first native gardens at the University of Maryland in 2006, and she has designed and implemented native gardens for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Vice President’s Mansion, and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

J. Vanderlei Martins Maniac Lecture

April 5

Dr. J. Vanderlei Martins, Professor, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "From the atom to the atmosphere and beyond." Vanderlei discussed the saga of a young physicist who, like many others, wanted to follow Feynman’s and Einstein’s steps in making fundamental discoveries that would change the world, but ended up in the exciting journey of an experimental physicist learning how to measure processes in the atmosphere, reproduce them in the lab, and probe nature using satellites. This talk is also about the people around him, who helped lead the way towards new discoveries in aerosols, clouds, weather and climate."


J. Vanderlei Martins is a professor at the Department of Physics, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and a member of the Climate and Radiation Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), under the Joint Center for Earth Systems and Technology (JCET) program. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Physics in 1991, a Master’s degree in Physics/Nuclear Applied Physics in 1994, and a Ph.D. in Physics/Applied Physics in 1999 from the University of Sao Paulo (USP), Brazil. He joined the Group of Air Pollution Studies at the Institute of Physics (USP) in 1990, and conducted research in environmental and atmospheric applied physics. In particular, he developed analytical nuclear techniques using particle accelerators for material analysis, including aerosols and tree-rings, and participated in several ground-based and aircraft field experiments studying properties of aerosols from biomass burning and biogenic emissions. He was a member of the University of Washington, Department of Atmospheric Sciences’ Cloud and Aerosols Research Group, from November 1995 to 1996. He taught at the University Sao Judas Tadeu between 1998 and 1999 while conducting research at the University of Sao Paulo.

Vanderlei works closely with the MODIS aerosol group; a collaboration which has led to many projects involving measurements and modeling of aerosol and cloud properties. He also works closely with several NASA GSFC Engineering Branches in the development of new satellite and aircraft sensors focusing on future measurements of aerosol and cloud properties. His group has a strong US and international collaborations and together they have performed field/aircraft measurements in several countries and Continents.

Peter Pilewskie Maniac Lecture

May 24

Dr. Peter Pilewskie, Professor, University of Colorado Boulder presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "Better to be Lucky than Good …" Peter talked about how he became a scientist, the things that roused his curiosity, and the generosity of some remarkable people who provided inspiration and guidance along the way. It is a tale of uncommonly good fortune – sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good!


Peter Pilewskie joined the University of Colorado in 2004 with a joint appointment in the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. He teaches courses in radiative transfer, remote sensing, and environmental instrumentation. Peter is a co-Investigator for the NASA Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE), the current NASA mission measuring the total and spectral solar irradiance from space, the Principal Investigator for the Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS), the future mission to insure the continuity of those same climate data records, and the LASP science lead on CLARREO Pathfinder. His research interests include solar spectral variability and its effects on terrestrial climate; quantifying the Earth-atmosphere radiative energy budget; surface, airborne, and satellite remote sensing of clouds and aerosols; and theoretical atmospheric radiative transfer. Prior to his arrival at the University of Colorado, Peter spent 15 years at the NASA Ames Research Center where his research centered on airborne measurements of atmospheric radiation, cloud and aerosol remote sensing, and analysis of the atmospheric radiative energy budget.

Arthur Frederick “Fritz” Hasler Maniac Lecture

June 28

Dr. Arthur Frederick “Fritz” Hasler presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "50 years of looking at Earth, on the 50th anniversary of ATS-1 and the Suomi Spin Scan Camera." Fritz related the story of his “dad,” Prof. Verner E. Suomi – considered by many as the father of satellite meteorology, and himself, through the years while space science and remote sensing technology was marching forward. Fritz gave a picture of life before Applications Technology Satellite 1 (ATS 1), life in 1966-7 and going forward, also how our view of our planet has changed in the last 50 years.


Dr. Arthur F (Fritz) Hasler: Ph.D. Meteorology University of Wisconsin Madison. He is an Emeritus Research Meteorologist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He was also a senior scientist at National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder CO and the Laborotiore de Meteorolgie Dynamiqe in Paris. He is now an Adjunct Professor at the University of Utah, Adams State University and Viterbo University. He is the author of three graduate level on-line courses on Earth Observations from Space and Global Warming. He has 45 peer reviewed scientific papers. He has also done extensive work involving visualization for scientific analysis and public outreach. He is famous for visualizations on ABC, NBC, CBS, CBC, THE WEATHER CHANNEL, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC & French TV, as well as on the covers of National Geographic, TIME, Popular Science, Newsweek, Der Spiegel, the Weekly Reader, and in the TIME/LIFE Collection of Great Photographs of the 20th Century. He developed the NASA/NOAA Earth Science (E)lectronic Theater and has taken it on tour across the US, Europe, South Africa, Australia/New Zealand, SE Asia, and Japan. Dr. Hasler has received numerous honors and awards including the NASA/GSFC Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, NASA Exceptional Service Medal, Excellence in Outreach Award, and the AIAA Barry Goldwater Award for public outreach. In retirement he holds the title of NASA Emeritus Research Scientist. Since 2007 he has worked as a PSI L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Ski Resort in Utah.

Belay Demoz Maniac Lecture

July 26

Dr. Belay Demoz, Professor/Director of the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET), University of Maryland, Baltimore County, presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "My Journey from the Horn of Africa to NASA!" Belay shared lessons learned from his unlikely, but rewarding journey from the Horn of Africa that is characterized by historic drought, civil war, geopolitics, and luck (a lot of it) and the struggle to pay it back to society through integration of science, education, and service. It is a journey that benefited from good people, unexpected opportunities, good advice and choices he made along the way (some that he did not know were good at the time), including becoming an atmospheric physicist.


Dr. Belay Demoz is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Director of the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET), a cooperative center between University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). He also serves as an adjunct Professor at Howard University. Prior to joining UMBC, he held the position of Professor of Physics and Atmospheric Science at Howard University, served as a Physical Scientist at NASA GSFC (2002-2008), and was adjunct professor at university of UTAH.

Dr. Demoz received his Ph.D. in Atmospheric Physics and his M.Sc. in Atmospheric Science from the Desert Research Institute at the University of Nevada-Reno in 1992, after completing his B.Sc. in Physics with a Minor in Mathematics at Asmara University, Eritrea, East Africa, 1984.

Dr. Demoz research interest includes mesoscale observation and instrumentation in atmospheric physics and climate as well as atmospheric science influence in climate policy. He has chaired the Committee for Atmospheric LIDAR Application Studies (CLAS) for the American Meteorological Society and has served as Associate Editor for the Journal of Geophysical Research and the web magazine Earthzine. He has organized national and international conferences and workshops and serves in a number of working groups and international organization and is also active in organizing national and international research field observations (e.g. WAVES 2007, IHOP2002, PECAN 2015 for example).

Antonio Busalacchi Maniac Lecture

August 16

Dr. Antonio J. Busalacchi, President, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "From Here to Boulder: With Apologies to Burt Lancaster." Tony shared how a grandson of Sicilian immigrants ended up leading UCAR. He discussed his early years, his formative years, and how his time at Goddard prepared him for his move to College Park and then Boulder. He recounted his keys to a rewarding career, the mentors who have influenced him, and how he has shared those experiences with students and mentorees. He drew on his early work on El Nino and then concluded by peering into a crystal ball to outline what he sees in the future for Earth and environmental science.


Dr. Antonio Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) since August 2016, has a distinguished career in the geosciences; extensive experience in management of academic, laboratory, and government programs; and a broad knowledge of the community. Prior to his appointment at UCAR, he served as director of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) and as a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Maryland. After receiving a Ph.D. in oceanography from Florida State University, Dr. Busalacchi began his professional career at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He has studied tropical ocean circulation, its role in the coupled climate system, and phenomena such as El Niño. His interests include the development and application of numerical models combined with in situ and space-based ocean observations to study the tropical ocean response to surface fluxes of momentum and heat. His research on climate variability and predictability has supported a range of international and national research programs dealing with global change and climate, particularly as affected by the oceans.

In 1991, he was appointed chief of NASA’s Laboratory for Hydrospheric Processes. In 2000, he was selected as the founding director of ESSIC at the University of Maryland. Dr. Busalacchi has been involved in the activities of the World Climate Research Program (WCRP). From 2008-2014 he chaired the Joint Scientific Committee that oversaw the WCRP. He previously was co-chair of the scientific steering group for its sub-program on Climate Variability and Predictability. Dr. Busalacchi has served extensively on activities of the National Academies, including as chair of the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, chair of the Climate Research Committee, chair of the Committee on Earth Science and Application: Ensuring the Climate Measurements from NPOESS and GOES-R, and co-chair of the Committee on National Security Implications of Climate Change on U.S. Naval Forces. He also has served as a member of the Committee on the Effect of Climate Change on Indoor Air Quality and Public Health, Committee on Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change on Social and Political Stresses, and Committee on the Assessment of NASA’s Earth Science Program.

Among his awards and honors, in 1991, Busalacchi was the recipient of the Arthur S. Flemming Award, as one of five outstanding young scientists in the entire Federal Government. In 1995 he was selected as Alumnus of the Year at Florida State University, in 1997 he was the H. Burr Steinbach Visiting Scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in 1999 he was awarded the NASA/Goddard Excellence in Outreach Award and the Presidential Rank Meritorious Executive Award. He is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), the American Geophysical Union (AGU), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and was the 2006 AMS Walter Orr Roberts Interdisciplinary Science Lecturer. In 2016, Dr. Busalacchi was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

J. Marcos Sirota Maniac Lecture

October 13

Dr. Marcos Sirota, President and CEO, Sigma Space Corporation, presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "Can introvert scientists become good entrepreneurs?" Marcos gave his version of the answer, through his own journey from Argentina to Seattle to Maryland, and beyond. (He said that Stockholm was never in his potential itinerary). He shared topics all the way from industrial lasers to solar pumped lasers in earth orbit, to Sigma’s airborne lidars to map our planet; an enterprise now owned by Leica Geosystems. NASA and other US government agencies are some of the best venture partners an entrepreneur can wish for, and he explained why.


Dr. J. Marcos Sirota is a co-founder, president and CEO of Sigma Space Corp. He has been working on optical instrumentation and lidar systems for aerospace applications for over 25 years. Sigma produces state-of-art lidar instruments for ground, airborne and spaceborne platforms, including cloud physics, aerosols, wind and topographic measurement systems. Various commercial products, including Micro Pulse Lidar for atmospheric monitoring, and Single Photon Lidars for topographic mapping are used worldwide. Previous positions included postdoctoral appointments at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, research appointments at the National Research Council of Argentina, and a research professorship at the University of Maryland.

Marcos earned his Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1990 from the University of Washington, a master's from that university in 1984, and a Master’s in Electrical Engineering from the Universtiy of Buenos Aires in 1981. He is author or co-author of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers in various fields.

Michael H. Freilich Maniac Lecture

November 1

Dr. Michael H. Freilich, Director of the Earth Science Division, in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "From Beaches to Bureaucracy – Evolution(?!) of a Career(?)." Mike recounted events and gave insights gained during his (not necessarily efficiently productive) life as a scientist. In the context of scientific, career, and life choices, he discussed: randomness vs. plans; advice vs. impulse; risks taken and opportunities squandered; and the holy grails of discovery and accomplishment.


Dr. Michael H. Freilich is the Director of the Earth Science Division, in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. Prior to this, he was a Professor and Associate Dean in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University and a member of the Technical Staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Dr. Freilich has extensive knowledge and experience in determination, validation, and geophysical analysis of ocean surface wind velocity measured by satellite-borne microwave radar and radiometer instruments. He has developed scatterometer and altimeter wind model functions, as well as innovative validation techniques for accurately quantifying the accuracy of spaceborne environmental measurements.

He has served on many NASA, National Research Council (NRC), and research community advisory and steering groups, including the WOCE Science Steering Committee, the NASA EOS Science Executive Committee, the NRC Ocean Studies Board, and several NASA data system review committees. He chaired the NRC Committee on Earth Studies, and served on the NRC Space Studies Board and the Committee on NASA/NOAA Transition from Research to Operations.

His honors include the JPL Director's Research Achievement Award (1988), the NASA Public Service Medal (1999), and the American Meteorological Society's Verner E. Suomi Award (2004), as well as several NASA Group Achievement awards. Dr. Freilich was named a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society in 2004.

He earned his Ph.D. in Oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Univ. of California at San Diego in 1982, and BS degrees in Physics (Honors) and Chemistry from Haverford College. He is author or co-author of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers related to geophysical analysis of ocean surface wind velocity.

Dr. Freilich's non-scientific passions include nature photography and soccer refereeing at the youth, high school, and adult levels.