Dr. Mary A. Voytek took charge of NASA’s Astrobiology Program on September 15, 2008, as Senior Scientist for Astrobiology in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA HQ. In addition to managing the Core and Strategic Astrobiology Programs, Mary Voytek has been 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 this rapidly progressing field. Advancements like the Research Coordination Networks have 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 has 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.