16:40 PM

New NASA Postdoctoral Program Policy Helps level Playing Field


Columbia, MD.--November 5, 2019.   More than 200 NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellows at NASA Centers and institutions from coast to coast will now have the opportunity to continue receiving stipends during time away from work beginning immediately thanks to a new policy. This is a major improvement over the old procedure, where stipends stopped while the fellows were absent from their posts.

“This is a policy for the 21st century,” said Dr. Joan Schmelz, USRA Director of NPP. “It’s ‘one giant leap’ for work-life balance at NASA, not just for women, but for everyone.”

Schmelz has been working to get this policy in place since she took the reins of NPP in February 2019. She heard an outcry from current fellows, alums, and scientific colleagues clamoring for change.

Under the old policy, the amount of time away from work needed to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. The burden was on the Fellow, who was dependent on the good will of their NASA research advisor. This burden has finally been lifted with a twelve-week guarantee.

“The new policy allows every Fellow to do their best research,” Schmelz added. “If you want to level the playing field, this is where you start.”

USRA, which administers NPP, has been working with NASA to create the new policy.

“Our early career scientists juggle many priorities as they get established in challenging careers,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate  in Washington. “I applaud this new policy, which will help these young people to succeed and become the leaders we’ll need tomorrow.”

NPP was established in 2005 when it transitioned from a program run by the National Research Council (NRC). Both NPP and its predecessor provide opportunities for scientists and engineers to work at NASA centers on NASA research, with a legacy that goes back for over 40 years.

About NPP

The NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) provides early-career and more senior scientists the opportunity to share in NASA's mission. Fellows work on 1 to 3 year assignments with NASA scientists and engineers at NASA centers and institutes to advance NASA's missions in earth science, heliophysics, planetary science, astrophysics, space bioscience, aeronautics, engineering, human exploration and space operations, astrobiology, and science management. NPP Fellows contribute to our national scientific exploration, confirm NASA's leadership in fundamental research, and complement the efforts of NASA's partners in the national science community. More information about NPP is available at npp.usra.edu.

About USRA

The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is a nonprofit corporation chartered to advance space-related science, technology and engineering. USRA was founded in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the U.S. Government. It operates scientific institutes and facilities, and conducts other major research and educational programs, under Federal funding from NASA, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Department of Energy, and other agencies. USRA engages the university community and employs in-house technical leadership and project management expertise. The governance of USRA is grounded in 111 major research universities. USRA is located in Columbia, Maryland. More information about USRA is available at www.usra.edu.