Matt Mountain in the clouds

Matt Mountain


Matt Mountain, President of AURA since 2015, is the Telescope Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and a member of the JWST Science Working Group. Previously, he was Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute and prior to that led the construction of and directed Gemini Observatory. He received his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Imperial College of Science and Technology, University of London. His research includes star formation, advanced infrared instrumentation, and capabilities of advanced telescopes. Mountain is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Society for Optical Engineering, the Royal Astronomical Society and a member of the American Astronomical Society. Full bio here

Heidi Hammel

Heidi Hammel

Vice President for Science

Heidi Hammel received her undergraduate degree from MIT and a Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of Hawaii. After a post-doctoral position at JPL, where she was a member of the Imaging Science Team for the Voyager 2 Neptune Encounter, Hammel returned to MIT as a Principal Research Scientist in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. She also spent many years with the Space Science Institute in Boulder, CO. Hammel has used Hubble many times, and led the Hubble Team that investigated Jupiter’s atmospheric response to the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994. She is an Interdisciplinary Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope and Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Planetary Society.

Mario Hamuy

Mario Hamuy

Vice President and Head of Mission, Chile

Mario Hamuy comes to AURA from the University of Chile where he was a Full Professor of Astronomy. He served as Chairman of Board of CONICYT where he designed implementation and evaluation of public policies for science and technology in Chile. Hamuy was also Scientific Advisor to the Presidency of Chile for the creation of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation. During his eight years at CTIO, he led the Calán/Tololo Program, which allowed the precise calibration of Type 1A supernova luminosities. This research was the basis for the modern determination of the Hubble constant and the distance scale that was the foundation of the Dark Energy Team’s research that received the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. Hamuy received both a Bachelor of Science and Master’s degree in physics from the University of Chile and a PhD in astronomy from the University of Arizona.

headshot Barbara Lam

Barbara Lam

Chief Financial Officer

Before joining AURA, Lam was Vice President of Finance at the Diplomat Group in Annapolis, Maryland. There she led government contract accounting and compliance and business operations for large overseas construction, aviation and logistics projects. Prior to that, Barbara Lam was a Division Senior Director of Finance and Business Affairs at Johns Hopkins University where she oversaw finance, accounting and business operations functions. Previously, Lam served in various senior finance roles for government contractors. In each of her prior roles, Lam led teams that delivered business solutions to support data driven decision making. Barbara Lam received a Masters in Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and International Studies from DePaul University.

Dana Lehr

Dana Lehr

Vice President for Programs

Dana Lehr joined AURA in 2015 with deep experience of the National Science Foundation’s astronomy programs, having managed portfolios in large facilities operations, individual investigator grants, and career development awards. Most recently, Lehr was Program Manager for NSF’s Cooperative Agreement to operate the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the North American partnership in the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Previously, Lehr served as Acting Deputy Division Director for astronomy and as Program Manager for the Arecibo Observatory. Lehr earned her Ph.D. in Physics from Stanford University with theoretical work on the relativistic signatures of compact objects.

Ameerah McBride headshot

Ameerah McBride

Chief Diversity Officer

Ameerah McBride comes to AURA from Texas State University, a Minority Serving/Hispanic Serving Institution with over 38,000 students in central Texas, where she was Chief Diversity Officer, Director of Equity and Inclusion and Title IX Coordinator. Before Texas State she served as the director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. McBride earned her B.A. in political science from Clark Atlanta University, her M.S. in administration of justice from the University of Phoenix and her Juris Doctorate from Ohio Northern University. She is a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional, as well as a Certified Diversity and Inclusion Recruiter.

Dr. Phil Puxley

Phil Puxley

Vice President for Special Projects

Phil Puxley comes to AURA from NSF where, as Program Director, he was responsible for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, with oversight of U.S. contributions to the ALMA construction project and the U.S. operations funding. He was also responsible for program management of NRAO. Previously, Puxley was Associate Director for Science Operations at Gemini Observatory, Head of Gemini South, Gemini South Head of Science Operations, and Interim Associate Director for Gemini North and South. He received his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from University of Edinburgh and held a post-doctoral position at the University of Hawai’i Institute for Astronomy.

Valen L. Schnader

Valen L. Schnader

Vice President for Operations/Chief of Staff

Val joined AURA’s Headquarters team in 2015 as Vice President for Operations/Chief of Staff. In these roles, he is responsible for overall corporate risk management, as well as day-to-day business leadership of the organization. Val began his career in the aerospace industry, holding positions in finance and contracts management. He then moved to AURA’s Space Telescope Science Institute, ultimately serving as the Associate Director for Administration until his transition to AURA Corporate Office. Val received an MBA with a concentration in Quantitative Analysis from the University of Kentucky.

Jeremy Weirich

Jeremy Weirich

Vice President for Corporate Strategy

Before joining AURA, Weirich served on the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Appropriations, most recently in the position of Majority Clerk for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee under the leadership of Senators Shelby and Cochran, and previously under Senator Barbara Mikulski. He directly managed several science accounts including NASA Astrophysics, NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences, Gemini Observatory, NOAO, and NSO as well as various justice, trade, and economic agencies. Weirich received a BS from the Maine Maritime Academy and a MS in Maritime Archeology from the University of Southampton.

Patrick McCarthy

Patrick McCarthy

Director NSF’s NOIRLab

Patrick McCarthy is the former Vice President of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization and an Astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science. McCarthy is a world-recognized astronomical leader; his seminal work on galaxy evolution and the high-redshift universe has earned him wide scientific respect and recognition. He has spent more than thirty years working with the NOIRLab facilities, as a frequent observer and as a member of advisory and oversight committees. McCarthy’s experience with large projects, including developing instruments for Hubble and his leadership roles in the Giant Magellan Telescope Project, will be invaluable as NOIRLab charts its path through the coming decade and beyond.

Ken Sembach

Ken Sembach

Director STScI

Ken Sembach has been deeply involved in the scientific, operational, and managerial aspects of the Hubble Space Telescope for the past 15 years. He has served as interim deputy director, Hubble mission head, and Hubble project scientist. Previously, Sembach was the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) deputy project scientist for Large Science Programs from 1996 to 2001 at the Johns Hopkins University. He also was a NASA Hubble Fellow from 1992 to 1995 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sembach received a B.A. in physics with honors in 1988 from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in astronomy in 1992 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Valentin M Pillet

Valentin M Pillet

Director NSO

Prior to Valentin Pillet’s appointment as Director of NSO in 2013, he served as a Senior Scientist at the Instituto de Astrofíscia de Canarias, where he was the Co-Principal Investigator for the Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager instrument to be flown on the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter mission, and Principal Investigator for the Imaging Magnetograph Experiment that has flown as part of the Sunrise balloon-borne telescope. Pillet earned his bachelor’s degree from the Science University of Valencia and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of La Laguna. He was a member of the Science Working Team of the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter mission and was President of the Division II of the IAU “The Sun & the Heliosphere” from 2010-2012.

Head and shoulders photo of Jennifer Lotz smiling

Jennifer Lotz

Director Gemini Observatory

Lotz received her PhD in astrophysics from Johns Hopkins University in 2003 and specializes in galaxy evolution and morphology, the high-redshift Universe and gravitational lensing. She most recently held a tenured associate astronomer position at STScI and a joint appointment as a research scientist at Johns Hopkins University. She is a leading expert in the field of galaxy mergers, and makes use of both ground-based and space telescopes to track the growth of galaxies over cosmic time. She led the Hubble Frontier Fields program, one of the largest programs undertaken with Hubble to detect the faintest distant galaxies yet seen.

Steve Kahn

Steve Kahn

Director Vera C. Rubin Observatory

Steve Kahn received his undergraduate degree from Columbia College, a Ph.D. in physics from UC Berkeley and was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Kahn served as the Associate Laboratory Director of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and was the Chair of the Physics Department at Stanford and Columbia Universities. He has made significant contributions to X-ray astronomy and was the US Principal Investigator for the development of the Reflection Grating Spectrometer. Kahn is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

head shot of Bob Blum against a grey background

Bob Blum

Acting Director Vera C. Rubin Observatory Operations

Bob Blum transitioned to Acting Director for Rubin Observatory Operations in October, 2018 after 21 years at NOAO, where he was Deputy Director for 10 years. Blum’s research interest is large survey science with a focus on studies of the Milky Way and Local Volume. Prior to his role as Deputy Director, Blum spent 10 years at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile as a staff astronomer. He joined NOAO after completing a Hubble Fellowship at the University of Colorado where he worked on near infrared studies of massive stars and star clusters. Blum received his PhD from Ohio State University and holds a BS and MSc in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the University of Washington. Blum is a member of the American Astronomical Society and the International Astronomical Union.

Lori Allen headshot

Lori Allen

Director Mid-Scale Observatories

Lori Allen joined the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in 2009 from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics where she was a member of the IRAC instrument team for the Spitzer Space Telescope. Allen has served as Associate Director of Kitt Peak since 2014. In the position of Acting Director of NOAO, she was responsible for top level management of NOAO and continuing senior management of Kitt Peak. Allen received her PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is a member of the Spitzer Science Center Oversight Committee and of the AAS Committee on Light Pollution, Radio Interference and Space Debris. Her research interests include wide-field surveys, star and planet formation, protoplanetary disk evolution, asteroids and galactic archaeology. Lori is Director of the Mid-Scale Observatories (MSO) which includes the Kitt Peak and Cerro Tololo Observatories.

Adam Bolton

Adam Bolton

Director Community Science and Data Center

Adam Bolton came to the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in December 2015 from the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Utah, where he played a leading role in the data management and scientific data analysis efforts of the SDSS and DESI projects. He received his PhD in 2005 from MIT, held postdoctoral fellowships at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, and received a Department of Energy Early Career Research Award at the University of Utah. His research interests are in observational cosmology, massive galaxy evolution, gravitational lensing, and astrostatistics.