NASA Research Leader Appointed Associate
Vice President for Research
Jon Morse, director of the astrophysics division at NASA, has been appointed associate vice president for research/physical and engineering sciences. Morse brings experience ranging from academia to NASA to the White House to Rensselaer as a member of the leadership team for the more than $89 million research enterprise of the Institute.
“Dr. Morse is an international leader in astrophysics who has driven high-impact space observation research at NASA,” said Vice President for Research Francine Berman. “He brings deep experience in the successful development and conduct of natural sciences and engineering research to Rensselaer. We are delighted to have him as a new leader in the vibrant Rensselaer research community.”
Morse will join Rensselaer on Oct. 3. “I look forward to working with the talented faculty and students of Rensselaer to bring increased prominence to our research enterprise as we seek to advance the cutting edge of discovery and innovation,” Morse said.
Morse has been director of the astrophysics division at NASA since 2007, leading the world’s largest space astrophysics program. The $1.1 billion astrophysics portfolio includes over a dozen flight projects and grant programs for hundreds of researchers around the country. He has had overall management responsibility for major research missions with international scientific significance, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. He has also overseen the successful launches of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, Kepler observatory, Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, and Servicing Mission 4 to Hubble, to be followed soon by future observatories like the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array Explorer mission. Under his leadership, the foundation has been laid for new investments in basic research and technology development that will enable future frontier missions.
Morse joined NASA in 2005 as a senior astrophysicist at the Goddard Space Flight Center. From 2006 to 2007, he served as a senior policy analyst for physical science and engineering in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the Executive Office of the President. In this role, he worked with the OSTP director and senior staff in advising the President and executive officers on domestic and international science and technology activities, and helped to develop and promote strategic initiatives for the future of American space, competitiveness, and energy policy. He also assisted in budget development for federal agencies to foster fundamental research and forward-thinking, use-inspired research and development programs that lead to marketable technologies with economic benefit.
His scientific research extends from expertise in galactic and extragalactic astronomy, including the investigation of dark energy, galaxy assembly, the origins of elements, the formation of stellar and planetary systems, and extrasolar planets.
Prior to joining NASA, Morse was a member of the faculty at Arizona State University and at the University of Colorado. At the University of Colorado, he was project scientist for the NASA Cosmic Origins Spectrograph for the Hubble Space Telescope from 1997 to 2003. This sophisticated device was successfully installed on Hubble in 2009 and it is now being used by astronomers around the world to study the origins and evolution of stars, galaxies, and the intergalactic medium. He became associate director of the internationally renowned Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy at the university in 2000.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in astronomy from Harvard University and his master’s degree and doctorate in astrophysics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He began his academic career as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md.