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UMBC names new director of GESTAR II

After a national search, UMBC has selected a new director of the Goddard Earth Sciences Technology and Research (GESTAR) Center II. In fall 2021, NASA awarded $72 million to establish the new GESTAR II center for an initial three years. UMBC leads the center, which includes over 120 researchers, in collaboration with primary partner Morgan State University and six other institutions.

Charles Ichoku, professor of Earth and environmental sciences at Howard University and the Distinguished Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Cooperative Science Center, will take the helm as director on February 1, 2023. He succeeds inaugural director Belay Demoz, professor of physics, who will continue in his departmental role and who previously served as director of the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET). JCET preceded GESTAR II, and was last funded in 2015 for $46 million over five years. Ichoku will also have an appointment at UMBC as professor of geography and environmental systems.

"Dr. Ichoku brings impressive credentials, not only as a world-class scientist, but also as a long-term NASA-based scientist and program manager, to this important leadership position at UMBC. He is a perfect fit for both GESTAR II and UMBC," shares Karl V. Steiner, Vice President for Research & Creative Achievement at UMBC. Prior to Ichoku's current position at Howard University, he spent two decades at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, including two years as an associate program manager at NASA Headquarters. His final title at NASA Goddard was assistant chief of the Climate and Radiation Laboratory.

Ichoku has also consistently prioritized supporting students, with a focus on diversity and inclusion. He served as co-PI for the NASA-funded Student Airborne Science Activation (SaSa) project, involving three NASA centers and six minority-serving Institutions (MSIs), including UMBC. This past summer, 24 students, including four from UMBC, spent four weeks at UMBC as part of the SaSa program.

"I am delighted to join UMBC as the new director of GESTAR II," Ichoku states. "It is both a great pleasure and an honor for me, as I have always admired UMBC for being a shining example in all areas of university performance, including education, scholarship, research, innovation, technology, diversity, sports, environmental sustainability, and community outreach. I am proud of UMBC for attaining the status of Carnegie R1 Doctoral Institution."

Ichoku adds: "It is also a great blessing to have this wonderful opportunity to contribute to scientific discoveries and knowledge expansion for human advancement through NASA, and, in particular, Goddard Space Flight Center. I previously spent two decades at NASA Goddard and enjoyed every day of working there. I feel highly privileged to be involved in a program that connects two of the organizations that perform at the highest levels in their respective domains of activity, namely academia (UMBC) and space (NASA)." 

UMBC welcomes Dr. Ichoku!

Credit: Sarah L. Hansen, STEM Communications Manager, UMBC
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Charles Ichoku


Posted: January 13, 2023, 11:09 AM