Mary Votek, director of the Astrobiology Program at NASA Headquarters.

Dr. Mary Voytek

Former NASA Senior Scientist for Astrobiology

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Former Senior Scientist for NASA’s Astrobiology Program in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA HQ, Dr. Mary A. Voytek began her tenure on September 15, 2008. In addition to managing the Core and Strategic Astrobiology Programs, Mary Voytek worked at the forefront of adapting strategies to support astrobiology research at NASA in order to address some of the most innovative and groundbreaking advances in a rapidly progressing field. Advancements like the Research Coordination Networks helped to bring further opportunities for collaboration across the many scientific disciplines required to answer outstanding questions in astrobiology, from the origin of life to the potential for biology on other worlds in the Universe.

Dr. Voytek came to NASA from the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, VA, where she headed the USGS Microbiology and Molecular Ecology Laboratory. Dr. Voytek’s primary research interest is aquatic microbial ecology and biogeochemistry. She has studied environmental controls on microbial transformations of nutrients, xenobiotics, and metals in freshwater and marine systems. She has worked in several extreme environments including Antarctica, the arctic, hypersaline lakes, deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and terrestrial deep- subsurface sites. She has served on several advisory groups to Department of the Interior, Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and NASA, including the Planetary Protection Subcommittee. She also supported NASA’s Astrobiology Program serving as a NASA representative to a number of COSPAR convened studies exploring the potential for life in the Universe. She has held positions in several science societies and is currently a board member of the American Geophysical Union. In 2023, Dr. Voytek began serving as the Acting Exobiology Branch Chief at NASA’s Ames Research Center.