Team Biographies

Erin Smith
Deputy Observatory Project Scientist

Erin Smith is a Deputy Observatory Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope at Goddard Space Flight Center. Her work centers on developing commissioning plans to measure on-orbit observatory performance.

Erin is originally from Dallas, Texas but also lived in Chicago, Boston and Connecticut. Erin has always been interested in building things and figuring out how things work. Dr. Smith received a B.S. in Physics from the University of Texas at Austin in 2002, where she studied the development of new technologies for astronomical spectroscopy. Her Ph. D. in Astronomy is from UCLA, where she worked with Dr. Ian McLean on development of FLITECAM an instrument for NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), and studied dust emission around evolved stars.

Dr. Smith spent one year as a NASA Postdoctoral Program fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland developing, testing, and characterizing JWST detectors before re-joining SOFIA project at NASA Ames as the Deputy Instrument Development Manager. In this capacity she was responsible for coordinating the development, testing and delivery of the first 6 instruments to fly aboard SOFIA. She then worked at NASA headquarters as a Program Scientist and Policy analyst for the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate before returning to the JWST project at Goddard in 2016. She is also continuing her study of organic dust in the Interstellar Medium, around evolved stars and in star forming regions.

Dr. Smith is passionate about public outreach, and has given talks at planetariums, science centers and sci-fi conventions across the US. She also volunteers at the Smithsonian’s Spark!Lab, a hands-on invention space for 6-12 year olds. In her free time, Erin is part of several improv troupes including teams that perform improvised Shakespeare, science fiction and musicals.