Massimo Stiavelli

Head, James Webb Space Telescope Mission Office
Massimo Stiavelli

Dr. Massimo Stiavelli has led the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) mission office at the institute since 2012. In this role, he is responsible for managing and prioritizing the work of 300 scientists, engineers, and technical staff. He also oversees the team’s strategic planning, priority setting, and interaction with contacts at NASA and on external committees. He joined the institute in 1995 and served as a European Space Agency astronomer for the first five years. He was an instrument scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), going on to work on the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) during its development. He was part of the team that developed the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and acted as optics lead for that instrument. He was branch lead for all imaging instruments in Hubble and JWST before becoming a JWST project scientist in 2008. Throughout his career, he has continued his research as an astronomer.

Before joining the institute, Dr. Stiavelli was a tenured researcher at Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy, where he taught cosmology and complex dynamical systems courses, and conducted research on the formation of elliptical galaxies and central black holes. Earlier, he was a Fellow of the European Southern Observatory, and served as a postdoctoral scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he researched the stability of stellar dynamic models of galaxies. He launched his career as a second lieutenant in the Italian Army.

Dr. Stiavelli has extensive experience in all aspects of modern astronomical research, from theory and observations to data analysis and instrument construction. He has published more than 130 papers, including articles in the Astronomical Journal, the Astrophysical Journal, and the European Space Agency (ESA) Special Publication. He regularly referees papers for Astronomy & Astrophysics, the Astrophysical Journal, and the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. He has been invited to give presentations at many professional events, including a National Research Council study, IAU (International Astronomical Union) Symposia, the Texas/ESO-CERN Symposium, and First Stars series conferences. He is also active in public outreach; he’s given talks at the institute, schools, museums, and has made multiple appearances at the Baltimore Star Trek convention Shore Leave. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Astronomical Society, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the IAU.


PhD in Physics, Scuola Normale Superiore
MS in Physics, Scuola Normale Superiore
BS in Physics, University of Pisa

Research Interests: Central massive black holes, cosmology, emission line diagnostics at high-z, first stars and first black holes, galaxy formation and evolution, stellar dynamics

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