Working: How does NASA’s chief scientist work?

A Day in the Life of NASA’s Chief Scientist

A Day in the Life of NASA’s Chief Scientist

What do you do all day?
May 16 2016 4:24 PM

The “How Does NASA’s Chief Scientist Work?” Edition

NASA’s Ellen Stofan tells us about coordinating research and studying extraplanetary volcanoes.

Dr. Ellen Stofan, chief scientist, NASA, speaks at NASA's Earth Day event on April 22, 2015 at Union Station in Washington, DC.
Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA, speaks at NASA’s Earth Day event on April 22, 2015, in Washington.

Aubrey Gemignani/NASA

Listen to this episode of Working with guest Ellen Stofan:


Ellen Stofan, who serves as chief scientist at NASA, has a job like no one else in this world—or on any other. She trained as a geologist, using radar data to study volcanic activity throughout the solar system. Today, however, she helps coordinate NASA’s scientific strategies across fields and disciplines. Sometimes that means reading through huge stacks of recent research, other times it’s about carrying NASA’s message to the public. To help us better understand what she does, she took us through a typical day—and offered some exciting suggestions about where NASA might be headed.

In a Slate Plus extra, Stofan tells us about her love for Titan, a moon of Saturn that’s much like Earth in some ways but profoundly alien in others. If you’re a member, enjoy bonus segments and interview transcripts from Working, plus other great podcast exclusives. Start your two-week free trial at

Podcast production by Mickey Capper.