Maniac Talks

Upcoming Talks

POC: Charles K. Gatebe, Phone: 301-614-6228, Email:

Maniac Talks are about what inspired people to do what they are doing now in their career. It's about their driving forces and motivators and what keeps them going. It's about how they overcome obstacles. The format of the talks is informal and discussion is encouraged. All talks are recorded/taped and archived at GSFC Library. The talks are also available on YouTube:

Michael Kurylo Maniac Lecture

NASA climate scientist Michael Kurylo presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "An Uncharted Journey: How I Became an Atmospheric Scientist Rather than a Cowboy or a Farmer." Mike described the path that took him from post-WW II housing projects to and through a rural Connecticut neighborhood, how he became convinced about the unrealistic nature of some early naive career dreams, and how he eventually arrived at a career in atmospheric science (research and program management, and their interface with international environmental policy).

V. Ramaswamy Maniac Lecture

NOAA Climate Scientist Venkatachalam Ramaswamy presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "From physics to the science of weather and climate: The fun and excitement of scaling the boundaries across disciplines." Ramaswamy is convinced that he really did not have a definitive dream when he was growing up in India, with perhaps only the vaguest notion of being a scientific researcher. Now, it feels different for him. He reflected on the journey it has been through the academic and professional career – an adventure that has comprised crossing disciplinary perimeters involving multiple types of scaling. As he has wandered into the disciplines of climate and weather, the challenges encountered have been revelations in the interface between science and society.

Alexander Kashlinsky Maniac Lecture

Dr. Alexander "Sasha" Kashlinsky, an astronomer/cosmologist working at NASA Goddard presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "HOW I PLANNED TO TRAVEL TO SPACE AND GOT TO STUDY IT INSTEAD: a personal journey through 6 different countries in a changing world." Sasha was born in the former Soviet Union, just as the space era got underway with the Sputnick launch. He traced his journey back to those days of Sputnick, and walked the audience through different stages of his life and career, including his interactions with Lord Martin Rees, one of the world's most eminent astronomer and John Mather, a Nobel Prize in Physics winner.

Stephen Ungar Maniac Lecture

NASA climate scientist Stephen Ungar presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "My Intellectual Journey from 'Idiot' to 'Savant'." Steve shared his journey from somewhat problematic childhood, spanning World War 2, through early formative years leading to his six decades of association with NASA. Learn why, although race, religion and ethnicity played a role in his identity, he self-identify himself as a Physicist. According to Steve, NASA has served as a safe harbor for those afflicted with his condition and provided him an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to society. Steve also briefly touched on his good fortune in serving as the initial Mission Scientist for EO-1, "NASA's Science and Technology Pathfinder to the 21st Century."

Charles Ichoku Maniac Lecture

NASA climate scientist Charles Ichoku presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "Reminiscences of a scientist's journey from Nawfia to NASA." Born in a small town in Nigeria, Charles traced his captivating journey to NASA, which was full of surprises, and related his experiences with the great people he met and interacted with along the way, as well as some of his work.

Cynthia Rosenzweig Maniac Lecture

NASA climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "What If and So What? Climate Change and Corn/Wheat/Rice/Soybeans (and a few words on Cities)." Cynthia narrated how her background as agronomist set her on a path to investigate how a change in climate due to increased carbon dioxide would impact food security and how NASA missions and models have been valuable at every step of the way. Cynthia also touched briefly on climate change and cities.

Richard Fisher Maniac Lecture

Dr. Richard "Dick" Fisher, Director Heliophysics Division (Emeritus), NASA Headquarters, presented a Maniac Talk entitled, "The Seventh Cycle -- What I Needed to Know and Learned from the Secrets of the Japanese Garden." As in the case of learning how to perform in any specialized context, Dick found there were a number of issues he was neither taught nor learned from life experience. Using his own journey, Dick summarized a few of the more useful, to identify and make available things and ideas that helped him with his time with NASA.

Jagadish Shukla Maniac Lecture

Dr. Jagadish Shukla, Distinguished University Professor, George Mason University, presented a Maniac Talk entitled, "From Ballia to Boston: A Village Boy Goes to MIT and Goddard." Shukla's story begins as a boy who was born in a small village in the Ballia District of India, walked barefoot while grazing cattle, learned Sanskrit and Math under a kerosene lamp, used bullock carts and elephants for transportation, and somehow ended up at MIT and Goddard. The lecture also included a personal retrospective of the origins of the idea of predictability in the midst of chaos, and the evolution from Numerical Weather Prediction to Numerical Climate Prediction.

Florence Tan Maniac Lecture

NASA Engineer Florence Tan presented a Maniac Lecture entitled, "From Malaysia to Mars." Florence talked about her journey from Malaysia to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where she has been working on planetary mass spectrometers, which is characterized by challenges, frustration, excitement, and rewards.

Joel Susskind Maniac Lecture

NASA climate scientist Joel Susskind presented a Maniac Lecture entitled, "Journey from Chemistry to (who would have thought it) Meteorology." Joel described the twists and turns of his professional career, starting as a young child who loved to mix household chemicals together and wanted to become a chemist, and continuing through present as a career Civil Servant of 38 years at GSFC doing meteorological research.

Ralph Kahn Maniac Lecture

NASA climate scientist Ralph Kahn presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "The Stories Data Tell." At an early age, Ralph found that separating causality from coincidence can be the lynchpin of understanding, and at times can help identify prerogatives or highlight the path toward the better options. Ralph shared his experiences, professional, personal, and at the intersection of the two, where the difference seemed to matter. And how data can help address this challenge, providing evidence one way or the other - sometimes!