AURA Leadership Team

Matt Mountain in an orange jacket

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

Željko Ivezić

Željko Ivezić

Director, Rubin Observatory Construction

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).

Headshot of C. Keller against. blue background.

Christoph Keller

Director, NSF National Solar Observatory

Prior to his appointment as NSO Director, Dr. Keller was Director of Science at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. He started at NSO as a postdoc and then was hired as an Associate Astronomer. During his tenure, Keller led efforts at the McMath-Pierce solar telescope; designed, developed, built, and commissioned SOLIS VSM; and developed initial science cases and technical concepts for the Inouye Solar Telescope. In 2005 Dr Keller became the director of the Astronomical Institute at Utrecht University and after 10 years joined Lowell Observatory. Dr. Keller earned his Masters of Science in Physics and PhD in Solar Physics from ETH Zürich, Switzerland.

Head and shoulders photo of Jennifer Lotz smiling

Jennifer Lotz

Director, Space Telescope Science Institute

Dr. Lotz returned to STScI from NOIRLab where she was the Director of the International Gemini Observatory. Before her appointment as Gemini Director, she was a tenured associate astronomer at STScI with a joint appointment as a research scientist at Johns Hopkins University. Lotz led the Hubble Frontier Fields program, one of the largest programs undertaken with Hubble to detect the faintest distant galaxies yet seen. She continues her study of galaxies at the edge of the universe as part of the JWST Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science team. Dr. Lotz received her PhD in astrophysics from Johns Hopkins University in 2003.

Patrick McCarthy

Patrick McCarthy

Director, NSF 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.

Picture of Lee Curtis on a starry background

Lee Curtis

Chief of Staff

Lee Curtis transitioned to Chief of Staff after 11 years as Senior Executive Assistant to the AURA President and STScI Director. As Senior Executive Assistant he provided guidance and oversight for all planning and policy development activities. In addition, he organized and coordinated executive outreach and external relations efforts, and oversaw special projects. Prior to AURA, he worked for 10 years at the UK Government Communications Headquarters as an analyst, support officer, and communications coordinator. As Chief of Staff, Lee will work with the President, Vice Presidents, and Center Director leadership teams to establish a strategic management approach, set appropriate metrics, and ensure efforts are well-aligned by regularly evaluating progress.

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 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 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 headshot

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 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.

Smiling woman in front of green trees

Jean Toal Eisen

Vice President for Corporate Strategy

Jean Toal Eisen comes to AURA after serving on the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Appropriations since 2010, most recently in the position of Staff Director/Clerk of the Commerce Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee under the leadership of Senator Jeanne Shaheen and previously under Senator Barbara Mikulski. She was responsible for the oversight of annual appropriations for the Departments of Justice and Commerce, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and National Space Council, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Toal Eisen received a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Philosophy from Yale University.

Jon S. Tuma

Jon S. Tuma

Vice President for Human Resources

Jon is an accomplished Human Resources (HR) professional with a strong ability to assess organizational needs and implement effective action plans to prepare organizations for the future. He brings more than 20 years of experience innovating strategic talent management across all areas of HR. Prior to his last role as Head of People and Culture for a technology and health company, Jon held executive HR roles in organizations of similar size. He has led HR operations across 30+ states and has worked in 9 countries. Jon Tuma holds an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and a B.S. in Engineering from Cornell University.

A Voigt smiling

Alejandra Voigt

Vice President and Head of Mission, AURA Observatory in Chile

Alejandra Voigt comes to AURA from the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA), where since 2014 as ALMA’s Executive Officer, she was part of this amazing facility’s transformational impact on world-astronomy. In her role, she supported the full transition from construction to operations, building and optimizing processes and policies, including Observatory signature strategies, such as diversity & inclusion, sustainability, as well as the long-term public outreach vision. Before joining ALMA, she was the deputy head of the Legal and Legislative Division of the Secretary General of the Presidency, advising the Chilean President and his Cabinet in their legal and legislative functions, including relevant international matters. 

Stuartt Corder Headshot

Stuartt Corder

Deputy Director, NSF NOIRLab and AURA Mission Scientist in Chile 

Stuartt Corder has a strong history of leadership in astronomy with more than 15 years of experience in building, operating, and further developing groundbreaking, large-scale, advanced scientific and technical programs and facilities. Since receiving his PhD from Caltech, he has been in Chile, holding a number of senior leadership roles in the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) observatory and NSF National Radio Astronomy Observatory, including serving as Director for over a year. His research interests include planet and star formation and synthesis imaging in interferometry, including global coordination and planning of the technical and scientific campaign for ALMA’s first long baseline observations. 

Headshot of Victor Krabbendam

Victor Krabbendam

Project Manager for Rubin Construction

Victor Krabbendam has been Project Manager for Rubin Construction since 2012, after eight years as Project Manager for the Rubin Observatory Telescope & Site subsystem. Trained as a mechanical engineer, Victor has worked in industry, government, and with major astronomical research facilities including the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory and the Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) Telescope, a 4.1 meter telescope that is Rubin Observatory’s neighbor on Cerro Pachón.

Nancy Levenson

Nancy Levenson

Deputy Director, Space Telescope Science Institute

Dr. Nancy A. Levenson is a Senior Scientist and Deputy Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). She is also a research professor at the Johns Hopkins University. Previous appointments include Interim Director of STScI, Deputy Director and head of science at Gemini Observatory, and tenured faculty at the University of Kentucky. She earned her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Levenson’s research focus is active and star-forming galaxies and their obscuration. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Head shot of Sandrine Thomas

Sandrine J. Thomas 

Deputy Director and Telescope and Site Scientist, Rubin Observatory Construction

Dr. Sandrine J. Thomas focuses on optimizing Rubin Observatory’s image quality and on a smooth transition to operation among other topics. Dr Thomas’ main expertise is in physical optics, active/adaptive optics and coronagraphy as well as fostering a healthy workplace culture. In addition to Rubin, she worked at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, SOAR telescope, and Gemini Observatory. Her prior appointments include postdocs at the University of Santa Cruz and NASA Ames. Her PhD is from University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.