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 H. Freilich Maniac Lecture

Dr. Michael H. Freilich, Director of the Earth Science Division, in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "From Beaches to Bureaucracy – Evolution(?!) of a Career(?)." Mike recounted events and gave insights gained during his (not necessarily efficiently productive) life as a scientist. In the context of scientific, career, and life choices, he discussed: randomness vs. plans; advice vs. impulse; risks taken and opportunities squandered; and the holy grails of discovery and accomplishment.

J. Marcos Sirota Maniac Lecture

Dr. Marcos Sirota, President and CEO, Sigma Space Corporation, presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "Can introvert scientists become good entrepreneurs?" Marcos gave his version of the answer, through his own journey from Argentina to Seattle to Maryland, and beyond. (He said that Stockholm was never in his potential itinerary). He shared topics all the way from industrial lasers to solar pumped lasers in earth orbit, to Sigma’s airborne lidars to map our planet; an enterprise now owned by Leica Geosystems. NASA and other US government agencies are some of the best venture partners an entrepreneur can wish for, and he explained why.

Antonio Busalacchi Maniac Lecture

Dr. Antonio J. Busalacchi, President, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "From Here to Boulder: With Apologies to Burt Lancaster." Tony shared how a grandson of Sicilian immigrants ended up leading UCAR. He discussed his early years, his formative years, and how his time at Goddard prepared him for his move to College Park and then Boulder. He recounted his keys to a rewarding career, the mentors who have influenced him, and how he has shared those experiences with students and mentorees. He drew on his early work on El Nino and then concluded by peering into a crystal ball to outline what he sees in the future for Earth and environmental science.

Belay Demoz Maniac Lecture

Dr. Belay Demoz, Professor/Director of the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET), University of Maryland, Baltimore County, presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "My Journey from the Horn of Africa to NASA!" Belay shared lessons learned from his unlikely, but rewarding journey from the Horn of Africa that is characterized by historic drought, civil war, geopolitics, and luck (a lot of it) and the struggle to pay it back to society through integration of science, education, and service. It is a journey that benefited from good people, unexpected opportunities, good advice and choices he made along the way (some that he did not know were good at the time), including becoming an atmospheric physicist.

Arthur Frederick “Fritz” Hasler Maniac Lecture

Dr. Arthur Frederick “Fritz” Hasler presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "50 years of looking at Earth, on the 50th anniversary of ATS-1 and the Suomi Spin Scan Camera." Fritz related the story of his “dad,” Prof. Verner E. Suomi – considered by many as the father of satellite meteorology, and himself, through the years while space science and remote sensing technology was marching forward. Fritz gave a picture of life before Applications Technology Satellite 1 (ATS 1), life in 1966-7 and going forward, also how our view of our planet has changed in the last 50 years.

Peter Pilewskie Maniac Lecture

Dr. Peter Pilewskie, Professor, University of Colorado Boulder presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "Better to be Lucky than Good …" Peter talked about how he became a scientist, the things that roused his curiosity, and the generosity of some remarkable people who provided inspiration and guidance along the way. It is a tale of uncommonly good fortune – sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good!

Sara Tangren Maniac Lecture

Dr. Sara Ann Tangren, Agent Associate, University of Maryland Extension, presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "NASA’s Meadow Garden." Sara shared the obstacles and opportunities that repeatedly led her to choose the road less traveled, eventually becoming a regional expert on the conservation and creation of upland meadow habitat. She also discussed the conversion of a lawn to native meadow on the GSFC campus.

J. Vanderlei Martins Maniac Lecture

Dr. J. Vanderlei Martins, Professor, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "From the atom to the atmosphere and beyond." Vanderlei discussed the saga of a young physicist who, like many others, wanted to follow Feynman’s and Einstein’s steps in making fundamental discoveries that would change the world, but ended up in the exciting journey of an experimental physicist learning how to measure processes in the atmosphere, reproduce them in the lab, and probe nature using satellites. This talk is also about the people around him, who helped lead the way towards new discoveries in aerosols, clouds, weather and climate."

Michelle Thaller Maniac Lecture

Dr. Michelle Thaller, an Astronomer and Deputy Director of Science for Communications at NASA Headquarters, presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "Emotional Science.” As a science communicator, for years, Michelle has watched audiences, large and small, respond to science talks. All too often, she has watched the most fascinating, awe-inspiring images and discoveries fail to even keep an audience awake. Without an emotional connection to latch on to, most people do not respond to scientists, which in the past may have been innocuous –just perpetuating a stereotype of the blank, overly intellectual science personality. But in today’s world of deniers, false news, and a desperate need to address climate change, emotional irrelevance is a luxury we can no longer afford.”

Arlin Krueger Maniac Lecture

NASA climate scientist Arlin Krueger presented a Maniac lecture entitled, "Why don’t you measure ozone?" Arlin started from humble beginnings in central Minnesota, fortuitous timing led to a career in atmospheric physics from the IGY (International Geophysical Year period spanning from July 1957-December 1958) through the beginning and maturing of the space age. His grad school advisor’s direction to “measure ozone” led him to develop several balloon, rocket, and satellite techniques, including rocket ozonesondes and the TOMS total ozone mapping spectrometer.