Karen Thompson, Center Chief Technologist, Kennedy Space Center
Karen Thompson is the Chief Technologist of the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Prior to joining NASA, Karen worked in industry as a research polymer chemist, developing specialty materials principally for Department of Defense applications. Karen joined NASA in 1988, where she first worked as a research scientist—with her best known accomplishment her invention of electrically conducting polymer coatings that can be sprayed or brushed onto surfaces, thereby imparting corrosion resistance to the coated surface. Karen was the original inventor of this breakthrough technology and led a team of NASA and Department of Energy Los Alamos National Laboratory (DOE LANL) employees to further develop these novel coatings, with the resultant patent winning the Distinguished Patent Award in 1997 from the LANL. In 1993 Karen moved into management in NASA where she served in a series of positions, including managing collaborative partnerships involving NASA and external partners, managing advanced technology programs for KSC, supervising teams of researchers, serving as the Exploration Science and Technology Manager for KSC, and serving as Associate Director of the Applied Technology Directorate prior to her current position. Karen has received many awards for her accomplishments while working for NASA, including the prestigious NASA Exceptional Service Medal, KSC Invention of the Year, Certificates of Commendation, an Executive Safety Forum Award in 2009, and Space Act Awards . Karen has chaired several technical conferences (national and international), associated with such organizations as the American Chemical Society, the Gordon Research Conferences, and the American Society of Testing and Materials. Karen enjoys spending time in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her family and friends in the “getaway” cabin designed and built by Karen’s husband, a retired scientist.