Ellen Gertsen

Executive Officer, Science Mission Directorate, NASA

Ellen Gertsen ’02 is the Executive Officer for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, a position she has held since July 2017.  In this capacity, she is responsible for spearheading cross-disciplinary initiatives to modernize and streamline how NASA executes its science programs.  Her work focuses on ways that NASA can expand opportunities for participation and leverage best practices to enable new areas of scientific discovery.  This includes diversifying who participates in NASA’s missions and exploring ways to increase the use of innovative new technologies and mission architectures to answer key science questions.

Ms. Gertsen joined NASA Headquarters in 2003 as a Presidential Management Fellow and served as a policy analyst for the Science Mission Directorate and the Space Shuttle Program.  In 2008-2009, Ms. Gertsen served as a NASA Congressional Fellow in the United States Senate to develop legislation on climate change and other environmental issues.  Most recently, Ms. Gertsen was a Senior Operations Research Analyst with NASA’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer, where she was the primary liaison to the Government Accountability Office for their annual “QuickLook Book” and biennial “High Risk” assessments of major spaceflight project performance and led initial development of NASA’s 2018 Strategic Plan. 

Ms. Gertsen graduated from the Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences in 2002 with a degree in the Science of Earth Systems.  She also holds a Master of Public Administration in Earth System Science, Policy, and Management from Columbia University and a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from The George Washington University.  While at Cornell, Ms. Gertsen served as the President and House Manager for the Alpha Chi Sigma professional fraternity and was a proud member of the Lynah Faithful.  Ms. Gertsen is a member of the Cornell Arts and Sciences Advisory Council.