Section Manager, Planetary Sciences Section

Posted on
Current state: Approved and Notify DPS Secretary
Department: Planetary Science Section
City: Pasadena
State/Province: California
Country: United States
Contact Person: Cheryl Cooperstein
Contact Email: [email protected]
Institution: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Application Due Date: Friday, June 03 2022
Web Link:

The Planetary Sciences Section provides scientific leadership in planetary science and astrobiology, including small solar system bodies, life detection, and planetary habitability, via basic research, advanced instrumentation, and mission concept development.  We are seeking a Section Manager, who will lead the Section Science Management Team, and report to the Science Division Manager. As the Section Manager, you will have the opportunity to interact and partner with NASA and with senior JPL leadership in representing the Section, and be responsible for defining and implementing the vision for the Section as an organization and as a planetary science and astrobiology research institution.  In this role, you will develop deep knowledge on the multi-disciplinary work being done related to planetary science across the Lab and NASA, and forge new connections that will benefit both you, and the Section.  This is a full-time position with a 0.7FTE commitment, and you will be expected to also maintain your active scientific work.

In this role, your responsibilities will include: 

  • Developing, aligning, and interfacing the needs of various research groups within the Laboratory’s overall Division 32 Charter.
  • Representing the Section on scientific and technical committees and advisory boards, and Interfacing with the Laboratory’s management and NASA Program Offices. 
  • Developing comprehensive research and strategic plans that meet requirements and expectations of the Science Division, Solar System Exploration Program Directorate, and the NASA Planetary Science Division, to provide new and innovative opportunities for the research staff.
  • Recruiting and developing an outstanding, diverse, and inclusive staff, consistent with the Lab’s programmatic and administrative goals.
  • Working with Science and Business Management to facilitate all aspects of Section operations. 
  • Executing other ad-hoc assignments as assigned by Division Management.

Regular duties of the Science Management Team, as led by the Section Manager, include:

  • Fostering a favorable and inclusive work and research environment with a focus on mentoring, coaching, and professional development opportunities.
  • Reviewing and tracking proposals for internal and external research programs, as well as for competed instruments and missions.
  • Reviewing and tracking professional products from the Section, including publications, presentations, and reports.
  • Selecting and preparing research highlights representing science activities in the Section.
  • Improving and implementing recruitment and hiring best practices for Affiliates, Postdocs, and Employees.
  • Maintaining extensive familiarity with the professional work and expertise of Section members.
  • Reviewing and acting on Ethics-related issues such as Outside Activity Requests and mitigation of conflicts of interest.
  • Reviewing and overseeing Safety and Travel requests at the Section level.
  • Representing the Section in Science Division, Solar System Exploration Directorate, and other programmatic, strategic, and hiring meetings.
  • Representing the Section in professional training development activities and events.
  • Preparing first drafts of agendas, reports, and nominations for awards and promotions.




  • Typically requires a PhD in Physical Science, Biological Science, Engineering or Mathematics or similar disciplines, with a minimum of 8 years related experience.
  • Minimum of 4 years of demonstrated supervisory or management experience with Line, Program, or Project organizations.
  • Multidisciplinary knowledge in Planetary Sciences and Astrobiology, with a proven track record in developing, defining, and implementing an independent scientific research program.
  • Demonstrated scientific bona fides through an extensive publication record.
  • Demonstrated ability to secure competed external funding.
  • Demonstrated commitment to mentorship.
  • Highly developed leadership ability and teamwork skills, with proficiency in one or more of decision-making and delegation, change management, strategy development, and financial/cost management.
  • Has knowledge of industry and/or academic practices in support of diversity, equity and inclusion related to Planetary Science and Astrobiology research, and a demonstrated commitment to advancing improvements in this area.

Desired Skills:

  • Established experience and commitment to developing or supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
  • Experience working with JPL Program Directorates.
  • Expert knowledge of Laboratory and NASA policies and procedures, and government regulations across a range of applications.
  • Knowledge of NASA HQ and Center science Programs/Projects and management practices and procedures.

Applications received by June 3, 2022, will receive full consideration.