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Kara Martin

Assistant Director of the Science Directorate, Ames Research Center

Professional Background

Kara Martin is the Assistant Director of Science at NASA Ames Research Center.  Prior to joining NASA, Kara was a Research Assistant at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Palo Alto, CA and studied Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease in mice.  Her research at the VA Hospital led to a patent for a method of improving cognitive function and increasing dendritic complexity in humans exhibiting Down syndrome.  Her career at NASA began in 2012, when she joined the Rodent Research project, a major ISS payload that is still flown today, as an Experiment Support Scientist and Crew Trainer.  She continued to support the Rodent Research project until 2020. During her tenure on the project, she led the project in various roles including the Mission Integration & Operations Lead, Deputy Project Manager, and the Space Biology Rodent Research Portfolio Manager. During the eight years she supported and led Rodent Research, ten successful missions were flown to the ISS, and majority of the hardware, procedures, and crew training material that Kara developed are still used to this day.  

After leaving the Rodent Research project, Kara led the Flight Systems Implementation Branch (SCF) as Assistant Branch Chief and was the Human Research Program Exploration Medical Capabilities Center Lead. As Assistant Branch Chief, Kara was pivotal in enabling multiple International Space Stations flight missions and initiated multiple process improvements to branch processes to optimize workflow and efficiency, while ensuring quality and safety.  As the Exploration Medical Capabilities Center Lead, she built relationships with stakeholders, enhanced communication, and led efforts to bringing potential new business for Ames. 

Kara has been awarded several prestigious awards, including the Space Flight Awareness Silver Snoopy Award for her excellence in Rodent Research crew training in 2015, and the Exceptional Service Medal in 2023. 

Kara has a B.S. in Animal Science and M.S. in Biological Science from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN and she is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute.

In Kara’s free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two children and three cats, traveling, hiking, horseback riding, and wine tasting.