In July 2014, James Famiglietti took a leave of absence from his position as professor of earth system science and of civil and environmental engineering at University of California-Irvine, and moved to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena to assume the position of senior water scientist. Famiglietti is a hydrologist who uses NASA satellites and develops computer models to track how freshwater availability is changing around the world.

His work at NASA has received media coverage. An article featured on the cover of the Science magazine September 2014 issue focused on geophysical methods to detect changes in water storage in California. In November, a blog in Orange County’s OC Weekly gave an overview of his research background and findings. Also in the same month, Famiglietti was featured in a 60 Minutes segment on California’s drought situation and a briefing to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology on NASA research included illustrations and animation from the Famiglietti team’s work on using satellites to monitor groundwater depletion globally.

Famiglietti graduated from Princeton in 1992 with a Ph.D. in civil engineering and operations research. He worked under Eric Wood, the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Program in Environmental Engineering and Water Resources, who was recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering “for development of land surface models and use of remote sensing for hydrologic modeling and prediction.”