Laurie Leshin took office as the 16th President of WPI on June 1, 2014. She brings with her 20 years of experience as an academic and administrative leader and an accomplished record as a geochemist and space scientist.
Leshin most recently served as the Dean of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. During her time at Rensselaer, Leshin expanded and strengthened university research and teaching by establishing interdisciplinary research opportunities, increasing faculty and research endeavors, and implementing significant curriculum innovations. She also improved diversity, spearheaded initiatives for women in STEM, and significantly enhanced fundraising initiatives and communication and outreach.
While at Rensselaer, Leshin also continued her extensive research and national service through her work as a funded science team member for the Mars Curiosity Rover mission and her appointment by President Obama to the Advisory Board for the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, as well as her appointment by former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to the Advisory Board of the US Merchant Marine Academy.
Prior to joining Rensselaer, Leshin served as the deputy associate director of NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, where she was responsible for daily oversight and planning for NASA’s human spaceflight activities. She worked extensively with government and international partners to advance NASA’s programs and catalyze a worldwide space exploration movement. She also oversaw development of new technologies and robotic missions, including the initiation of commercial human spaceflight capabilities to low earth orbit. Previously at NASA, Leshin worked as the director of science and exploration at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where she was responsible for the strategy, planning and implementation of 50 earth and space flight projects.
Before joining NASA in 2005, Leshin was the Dee and John Whiteman Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences at Arizona State University, where her successful research program focused on geochemical analysis of meteorites, the origin of the solar system, water on Mars, and astrobiology. She led the development of the first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary School of Earth and Space Exploration and served as director of the Center for Meteorite Studies at ASU, which houses the largest university-based meteorite collection in the world.
Leshin began her academic career in 1994 as a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA in the Department of Earth and Space Science. She spent four years at UCLA, where she was also named a W. W. Rubey Faculty Fellow.
Throughout her career Leshin has received many accolades in recognition of her pioneering achievements. In 2004 she received the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, and in 2011 she received NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal. She is a recipient of the Meteoritical Society’s Nier Prize for her research. She has also served on the Board of Directors of Women in Aerospace and the Council of the American Geophysical Union. The International Astronomical Union recognized her contributions to planetary science by naming asteroid “4922 Leshin.”
Leshin received a BS in Chemistry from Arizona State University in 1987 and her a Ph.D. in geochemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1994.