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NASA names Indian-American Bhavya Lal as acting chief of staff

Bhavya Lal, the Indian-American scientist who oversaw NASA’s transition under President Joe Biden’s administration, has been appointed as the Acting Chief of Staff of the US space agency.

According to NASA, Lal brings “extensive experience” in engineering and space technology, serving as a member of the research staff at the Institute for Defence Analyses Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) from 2005 to 2020.

There, she led the analysis of space technology, strategy, and policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and National Space Council, as well as federal space-oriented organisations, including NASA, the Department of Defence, and the intelligence community, the US space agency said in a statement on Monday.

Lal served as a member of the Biden Presidential Transition Agency Review Team for the agency and oversaw the agency’s transition under the administration of President Biden.

She is an active member of the space technology and policy community, having chaired, co-chaired, or served on five high-impact National Academy of Science committees.

Lal served two consecutive terms on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Federal Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing and was an External Council member of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program and the Technology, Innovation and Engineering Advisory Committee of the NASA Advisory Council.

Before joining STPI, Lal was president of C-STPS LLC, a science and technology policy research and consulting firm. Before that, she was the director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Studies at Abt Associates, a global policy research consultancy based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

She co-founded and is co-chair of the policy track of the American Nuclear Society’s annual conference on Nuclear and Emerging Technologies in Space (NETS) and co-organises a seminar series on space history and policy with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

For her many contributions to the space sector, she was nominated and selected to be a Corresponding Member of the International Academy of Astronautics, the statement said.

Lal earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in nuclear engineering, as well as a Master of Science degree in technology and policy, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and holds a doctorate in public policy and public administration from George Washington University.

She is a member of both nuclear engineering and public policy honour societies.