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Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Tuesday named a former top NASA geochemist and space scientist as its 16th president.
Laurie Leshin will be WPI's first woman president when she starts July 1. She takes over from Dennis Berkey, who stepped down in May after nine years at the science and engineering school.
"I am truly energized by the prospect of getting to know the members of the WPI community and their aspirations, of working together to expand WPI's impact, and raising the profile of this great university," Leshin said in a statement. "I look forward to many productive years of collaboration, and I can't wait to get started."
Leshin was selected out of an original pool of about 200 candidates.
"She is an academic who understands the role of - and the potential for - academia in the larger world," trustees chairman Warner Fletcher said. "Laurie has the rare capacity to work as successfully with students and faculty as she does with the White House and Congress."
Leshin is currently dean of the science school at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.
She joined RPI in 2011 after spending six years as a senior leader at NASA, first as director of science and exploration at the Goddard Space Flight Center, then as deputy director for science and technology at Goddard.
Prior to joining NASA, Leshin was a professor at Arizona State University focusing on geochemical analysis of meteorites, the origin of the solar system, water on Mars and astrobiology.
WPI, founded in 1865, has nearly 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students.