Suggested Searches

Michael Hesse

Director of the Science Directorate, Ames Research Center

Professional Background

Dr. Michael Hesse is the Director of the Science Directorate at NASA’s Ames Research Center, a position in the Senior Executive Service. In this role, he is leading a staff of about 500 government and contract employees, and postdoctoral fellows engaged in Earth science, planetary and astrophysical research, and space biological research. His responsibilities include provision of an entrepreneurial vision, scientific leadership, the management of organizational resources, management and development of budget and financial resources, internal and external partnerships, and overall implementation of NASA priorities. He represents the organization to senior leadership of government and nongovernmental organizations inside the U.S. and internationally. He leads the Directorate in its responses to Announcements of Opportunity from NASA Headquarters and elsewhere and he oversees the conception, construction, and delivery of flight hardware to airborne assets, satellite, and rover projects, as well as the leadership of such projects. Under his supervision, his organization conducts world-class research through the analyses of the data from these experiments, the comparison of these data set with computer simulations and theoretical models, and the publication of results in the scientific literature. He leads an extensive outreach effort, and provides continuing education of visiting students, of postdoctoral fellows, and of scientific staff.

Before joining Ames and re-joining NASA, Michael spent three years at the University of Bergen in Norway, where he held a professorship in physics. In Bergen, he also led the Geomagnetic Expert Service Centre, a multi-national consortium providing space weather services to ESA. He further held a part-time position with the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, where he contributed to research and leadership of NASA’s Magnetospheric MultiScale mission. Prior to moving to Bergen, Michael had a distinguished 25-year career at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). He previously served as the Director of the Heliophysics Science Division, a Senior Executive Service position. In that role, he was responsible for a staff of about 300 civil servants, university scientists, and contractors engaged in solar and space research, instrumentation and mission development, and space environment modeling for NASA and partners. Michael’s earlier positions include Chief of GSFC’s Space Weather Laboratory, a research scientist appointment in the Electrodynamics Branch, and a postdoctoral fellowship at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Michael was the founding Director of the Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC), the world’s foremost organization providing unprecedented comprehensive modeling services to the international space science community. Michael had various roles in NASA missions, most recently that of Lead Co-Investigator for Theory and Modeling for NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission. He has served on numerous committees, including on the Steering Committee of the 2013 Heliophysics Decadal Survey.

Michael remains a publishing research scientist, with more than 300 papers in the scientific literature, and an H index of 70. In addition to theory and modeling of kinetic space plasma processes, his research interests include space weather-related topics. He was elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2010, he received NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2007, and NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2017. Michael was elected member of Academia Europea in 2019, and he received the Space Weather and Nonlinear Waves and Processes prize of the American Geophysical Union in the same year. In 2023 he was recognized by the Meritorious Presidential Rank Award for Senior Executives.  Michael received his diploma and doctoral degree in Theoretical Physics from the Ruhr-Universität in Bochum, Germany. Michael’s hobbies are hiking, travel, sports cars, and amateur photography.