AURA Corporate Leadership Team

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

Head shot of 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.

Headshot of Hernan Bustos

Hernán Bustos

Acting Head of Mission, Chile

Hernán Bustos has been with AURA since 1972. He first worked in shift leadership and then as manager of the AURA office in Santiago. In 2009 Bustos took on the role of Administration Manager and then Legal Representative of the AURA Observatory in Chile and later served as the Deputy Director. Hernán Bustos is a State Professor, in addition to having a degree in Administration from the University of Chile. He has extensive experience in administration, finance, and managerial accounting. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Research and Education Network of Chile (REUNA) on behalf of AURA.

headshot Barbara Lam

Barbara Lam

Chief Financial Officer/Vice President for Operations

Before joining AURA, Barbara 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, she served in various senior finance roles for government contractors. Barbara Lam began her career with the public accounting firm of KPMG in Chicago and London. 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.

Kurt Lindstrom headshot

Kurt Lindstrom

Chief of Staff

Kurt Lindstrom comes to AURA Corporate from Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) where he held the position of Senior Operations Advisor since 2018. Before STScI, Lindstrom served for 10 years as Civil Space Mission Area Executive at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). There he was responsible for business development and mission execution of APL’s civil space portfolio including New Horizons, Parker Solar Probe and the Van Allen Probes. Lindstrom’s 25-year NASA career included Headquarters’ roles as director of the NASA Management Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and program executive officer overseeing missions such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Dawn mission and the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

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 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.

AURA Centers Leadership Team

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.

Valentin M Pillet

Valentin M Pillet

Director National Solar Observatory

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.

headshot Ken Sembach

Ken Sembach

Director Space Telescope Science Institute

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.

Željko Ivezić

Željko Ivezić

Director Vera C. Rubin Observatory

Željko Ivezić received undergraduate degrees in mechanical engineering and physics from the University of Zagreb, Croatia, in 1990 and 1991, and his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Kentucky in 1995. He worked on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) at Princeton University and then was a Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. His scientific interests are in detection, analysis and interpretation of electromagnetic radiation from astronomical sources. He co-authored over 300 refereed publications, with a cumulative citation count of over 100,000. His current focus is the Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST).

Lori Allen headshot

Lori Allen

NOIRLab – 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.

head shot of Bob Blum against a grey background

Bob Blum

NOIRLab – Director Rubin Observatory Operations

Bob Blum transitioned to 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.

Adam Bolton headshot

Adam Bolton

NOIRLab – 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.

Head and shoulders photo of Jennifer Lotz smiling

Jennifer Lotz

NOIRLab – Director International 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.