Mudd Talks– “Engineering Discovery: Building the James Webb Space Telescope,” Allison Barto ’98

March 16, 2022 Add to Calendar

5–6 p.m.


RSVP for talk



Since Galileo pointed the first telescope at the night sky, the desire to further observe and understand the Universe has driven the construction of ever larger and more powerful telescopes. For the past 20 years, NASA, ESA, CSA, universities and engineering companies across the world have collaborated to build the next-generation flagship space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope. Launched in December 2021, the Webb Telescope is the largest, most complex and most audacious space observatory ever built. The engineering challenges overcome to construct this marvel of scientific instrumentation will not only enable discoveries that drive the next decade of astronomy, but they demonstrate the technological and programmatic building blocks required to continue to push the state-of-the-art and frontiers of space-based astronomical facilities. Space scientist Allison Barto '98 will explore the engineering and construction of the James Webb Space Telescope and discuss what technologies will be needed to make the next steps in astronomical discovery.

This event is open to everyone. Students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni are welcome to join.

Allison Barto '98 (she/her, physics) is a director at Ball Aerospace, specializing in developing complex space systems from vision to orbit. With over two decades supporting mission development for both NASA and defense customers, Barto's career highlights include 17 years in both technical and leadership roles for the James Webb Space Telescope at Ball Aerospace, where she led the team responsible for delivery of the optics and electronics for the 22-foot-wide telescope, as well as for the overall optical design, verification and on-orbit optical phasing and commissioning of the Observatory. In 2017, Barto and her team were honored with the Aviation Week Program Excellence Award for work on Webb’s cryogenic electronics system.

With experience building complex and audacious space assets, she continues to look to the future of space telescopes. She was part of NASA’s recent in-space assembled telescope study and is part of the follow-on SMART Think Tank on in-space servicing, manufacturing and assembly. Barto served on a program panel for the National Academies Astro2020 decadal review process, which establishes national priorities for astrophysics space missions and ground facilities, and she serves on the Management Advisory Committee for the European Southern Observatory’s Extremely Large Telescope project. Barto is an SPIE Fellow and recipient of the Women in Aerospace Achievement Award for technical contributions to the Webb Telescope program.

When she is not building next-generation space systems, Barto fuels her passion for STEM by participating in education outreach, promoting inquiry-based learning and educational equity and opportunity. She is a member of Ball Aerospace’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council and served as the co-lead of the Ball Corporation Women’s Resource Group from 2012 to 2018, supporting the corporation’s diversity and inclusion goals to support women at Ball and the next generation of female STEM professionals.