Dr. Carolyn Mercer serves as the Chief Technologist for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate where she serves as the focal point for the development of innovative new technologies that will enable exciting new capabilities for astrophysics, heliophysics, Earth and planetary science, and fundamental physics on the International Space Station. She champions technology needs among senior executives in NASA and advocates within SMD for technological innovation and new paradigms enabled by emerging technologies.
Prior to joining the Science Mission Directorate’s leadership team, Dr. Mercer held several NASA Headquarters positions. She was the founding leader of the Planetary Exploration Science Technology Office where she created innovative approaches to promote technology infusion including the development of communities of practice to promote knowledge exchange. She was the Lead Program Executive for the SIMPLEx rideshare program for planetary science, where she substantially changed the program to focus on leveraging unused launch capacity to provide excellent science. She also served as a senior policy analyst for astrophysics.
Dr. Mercer has managed a broad portfolio of space-related technology development projects, including technologies to explore icy moons, advanced scientific instruments, flexible solar arrays, energy storage systems, and adaptive engine technologies. She began her career as a research engineer developing optical techniques to measure fluid properties in propulsion facilities at the Glenn Research Center and supervised a highly skilled group of scientists and engineers developing similar technologies. She holds two patents in optical instrumentation and has received numerous awards including the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement, NASA Glenn Outstanding Leadership Award, and NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal.
Dr. Mercer earned her Ph.D. in Optical Sciences from the University of Arizona, an MS in Physics from Cleveland State University, and a BS in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the Ohio State University.