RSI Leadership

photo of DavidDr. David Alexander OBE
Professor, Physics and Astronomy

David Alexander is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, where his primary areas of research are solar physics exoplanetary physics and earth remote sensing. As Director, Professor Alexander is responsible for managing all aspects of the growth and development of the institute. This includes providing vision, direction, and leadership, managing the various institute programs, identifying and fostering research opportunities for our faculty, and interacting with government and the space industry.

Professor Alexander was recently named an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen in the Birthday Honours List of June 2018 for services to US/UK connections in the space industry and higher education.

Professor Alexander received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2004 and was appointed a Kavli Frontiers Fellow by the National Academy of Sciences in 2006. He is currently Chair of the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory Users’ Committee. He is also former Chair of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society and former Chair of the Solar Heliospheric Interplanetary Environment (SHINE) program. Professor Alexander has served on many national and professional committees including the NASA Advisory Council’s Heliophysics Subcommittee, the NASA Solar Heliospheric Management and Operations Working Group (SH-MOWG), ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter Payload Committee and the Science Advisory Board of the High Altitude Observatory Coronal Solar Magnetism Observatory. He currently serves on the advisory board of SpaceCom, Deep Space Industries, and the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture at the University of Houston and on the editorial boards of ROOM: The Space Journal and Space Science Reviews. He has been named a GlobalScot by the Scottish government and appointed to the UNESCO EOLSS subcommittee on the Science of Space. He was also recently elected to the Board of Directors of the American Astronautical Society.

Professor Alexander joined the faculty at Rice in 2003, coming from the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, California where he was a Staff Physicist working on the development of advanced space missions for solar physics. He received his Bachelor of Science in Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, and his doctorate on Relativistic Cosmological Models from the University of Glasgow.

GSA Meber Badge

photo of MarkMr. Mark Jernigan

Executive Director
Former Associate Director for Space Life Sciences Spacecraft Systems Development Support, NASA Johnson Space Center

Mark Jernigan recently retired after working as an engineer and manager at the NASA Johnson Space Center. He has joined RSI as Associate Director for projects. Mr. Jernigan is responsible for developing ideas for collaborations between Rice and external entities and expanding sponsored research and projects brokered by RSI. Mark served at NASA in a number of leadership roles, the most recent of which was his position as Assistant Director for Exploration for the Human Health and Performance Directorate. He was responsible for providing crew health and performance expertise to support design, development, test and evaluation of the next generation human spacecraft and systems needed to accomplish deep space missions. He also led the development of the Directorate’s technology proposal strategy, worked on quantitative methods to characterize human system risks in terms of mission and architecture characteristics, and served as Environmental Control and Life Support manager for the NEXTStep program.

Mark received his Bachelor of Science in Aero Engineering from Texas A&M and his Master of Science in Systems Design and Management from MIT.

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Dr. Patricia Reiff
Associate Director for Public Outreach
Professor, Physics and Astronomy

Professor Patricia Reiff, the founding director of the Rice Space Institute, has been involved in space plasma physics research for over 40 years, with interests in the aurora and space weather. She received her Ph.D. analyzing Apollo plasma data, and was a Co-I on the Dynamics Ex­plorer, Polar, IMAGE, and Cluster Missions. She is Education and Public Outreach (EPO) lead for the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, to be launched in 2014, which provides free realtime spaceweather alerts to over 850 subscribers.

Dr. Reiff has served as director for public education and teacher enhancement projects for over 20 years. Her “Space Update” software together with “Earth Update” and “Space Weather” have been distributed to over 250,000 educators and learners. Her project “Immersive Earth” created full-dome digital planetarium shows, and has created a portable planetarium system, “Discovery Dome”, which is now in over 160 sites in 29 countries and 29 states. These NASA Cooperative Agreements have spun off two companies, Space Update, Inc. and MTPE which distribute educational materials and portable planetariums.

She has won numerous awards, including Houston’s “Women on the Move” award in 1990. She was elected to the Cosmos Club in 1992, a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 1997, and received the AGU “Athelstan Spilhaus Award” for public education in 2009. She also received the “Aerospace Educator Award” from Women in Aerospace in 1999 and NASA “Group Achievement” awards for the IMAGE, GGS and Cluster missions. In addition to training thirteen PhD’s, she created a “Master of Science Teaching” degree, with 23 teacher alumni as of 2011. Most recently, Professor Reiff was named the 2012 “Birkeland Lecturer” at the University of Oslo, Norway.

Former Leadership Personnel

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Mike Massimino
Inaugural RSI Executive Director
NASA Astronaut

Mike Massimino is a NASA Astronaut and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. As Executive Director, Dr. Massimino is responsible to forge strong and lasting ties between Rice and the NASA Johnson Space Center.

Dr. Massimino is the veteran of two space flights, STS-109 onboard Space Shuttle Columbia in March 2002 and STS-125 onboard Space Shuttle Atlantis in May 2009. STS-109 was the fourth Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission during which Dr. Massimino and his crewmates successfully upgraded the Hubble Space Telescope leaving it with a new power unit, a new camera (the Advanced Camera for Surveys), and new solar arrays. STS-125 was the fifth and final Hubble servicing mission during which Dr. Massimino and his fellow space walkers overcame frozen bolts and stuck handrails to upgrade and service Hubble while setting a crew record for spacewalking with 36 hours and 56 minutes during five spacewalks over the mission. The refurbished Hubble Telescope now has four new or rejuvenated scientific instruments, new batteries, new gyroscopes, and a new computer. Dr. Massimino has logged a total of 571 hours and 47 minutes in space, and a cumulative total of 30 hours and 4 minutes of spacewalking in four spacewalks over his two missions. In between his flight assignments, Dr. Massimino has had technical assignments in the Astronaut Office’s Robotics Branch and EVA (Spacewalking) Branch, as a spacecraft communicator (Capcom) in the Mission Control Center, and most recently as Chief of the Astronaut Appearances Office.

Dr. Massimino was selected as an Astronaut in 1996. Before joining NASA he was a faculty member at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he taught classes and conducted research on human-machine systems. He received his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Columbia University, a Master of Science in Technology and Policy from MIT, and a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT.

Mr. Chuck Gibbs
Associate Director for External Programs
Managing Director at Organization+Performance Group, International

Chuck Gibbs has 25 years experience consulting in the energy and healthcare industries domestically and internationally in Executive Coaching, Leadership Coaching and Development, Change Management and Performance Improvement utilizing behavioral and process approaches. He has unique experience internationally and cross-culturally. Chuck has advised business leaders in the a wide range of domains. He is also Director of the Invent Houston Foundation, a not-for profit corporation. Chuck is a Rice graduate from the class of ’84.