RoundupReads The People of Johnson: Meet Kamlesh Lulla, Senior Technical Advisor in Johnson’s Biomedical Research and Environmental Science Division

The People of Johnson: Meet Kamlesh Lulla, Senior Technical Advisor in Johnson’s Biomedical Research and Environmental Science Division

by Sumer Loggins | 2023-10-17

Dr. Kamlesh (Kam) Lulla has dedicated his heart and soul to exploring the unknown and being a positive role model to the next generation of explorers. Lulla's passion, enthusiasm, and open mind are what make him successful in the various roles he has filled at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.  

A renowned scientist and research leader who has been instrumental in shaping our understanding of Earth and the solar system, Lulla has received numerous awards from the U.S. government, universities, cultural organizations, and societies. He has trained astronauts, helped develop the Space Shuttle and International Space Station Programs’ observational science capabilities, and published over 200 technical papers on vital research topics such as climate change science. Most recently, Lulla took on a new position as Johnson’s senior technical advisor in the Biomedical Research and Environmental Science Division.

On Wednesday, Oct. 18, Lulla will be honored with the 2023 Length of Federal Service Award for committing 35 years to NASA. The commendation ceremony will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. in Johnson's Teague Auditorium. Join via Teams.  

A person wearing a grey suit, white button-down, and red tie in front of a blue/grey background with two flags behind him.
Dr. Kamlesh Lulla, Senior Technical Advisor in the Biomedical Research and Environmental Science Division. Credit: NASA 

“I start my day hoping to make contributions and create positive energy. I am constantly prepared to learn new things and work with diverse teams. My journey at NASA is a journey of learning, evolving, and growing.” - Dr. Kamlesh Lulla 

Not only has Lulla made significant contributions to the field of space exploration in over three decades of working at NASA, but he is also devoted to empowering the Artemis Generation. In his previous role as director of Johnson’s University Collaboration and Partnerships Office, Lulla dedicated his time to fostering the next generation of explorers. He believes that it is his responsibility to share the excitement surrounding NASA missions and promote the scientific contributions the agency is making to society.  

“Over the past few years, our work supporting University Collaboration and Partnerships has grown,” said Arturo Sanchez, deputy director of the External Relations Office at Johnson. “We’ve been fortunate to have Dr. Kam Lulla’s support, experience, and leadership – a valuable resource to strategically engage universities and leverage expertise that aligns with our technical work.” 

Lulla has brought the best minds from universities to work with NASA, developing new technologies and undertaking missions to explore destinations like Mars and beyond. When working with young people, Lulla searched for enthusiasm, passion, and most importantly, the capability to solve problems and think in a way that is not tied to one discipline. He believes that you do not have to have a title to be a leader and that success is being able to look at a problem and develop innovative solutions. “I strive to learn new things every day and contribute towards new knowledge,” said Lulla. “I always come with an open mind, so I have new energy every day. That helps me continue to progress in whatever project I’m undertaking.” 

Lulla was inspired by the example of first Asian American astronaut Ellison Onizuka, who worked tirelessly to influence younger generations. “NASA’s mission is very unique - to create new knowledge about ourselves, our planet, our universe, and answer fundamental questions about where we came from and how the solar system evolved,” he said. “When you create new knowledge, it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to communicate that with humanity.”  

There is no doubt that Lulla embodies the Onizuka spirit: to be the change one wants to see. For Lulla, positive changes happen when new talent and ideas are brought to NASA. He believes that good ideas come from various sources and that having an open mind and inclusive approach is fundamentally important. Lulla is often praised for his mentoring skills and for how much he has done to develop young talent in STEM. “Ultimately, good ideas are not a domain of one group or person,” he said. “Many times, you get unexpectedly good ideas from sources you wouldn’t think.”

A group of ten people gathered around a bright-lit table covered with images. There are monitors of Earth view in the background.
Filming the Space Center Houston large-format film production entitled: “To be an Astronaut.” Lulla instructs on Earth imagery.
Credit: NASA

Lulla considers it a great privilege to work at NASA, and he believes that opportunities are blessings for prepared minds. “In my younger days, it seemed like an impossible dream to be a part of NASA. I didn’t think I would have opportunities, but when the opportunity came, I was prepared and had the proper training, education, and skills." 

Even with a legacy of accomplishments, Lulla is most proud of the relationships he has built along the way. “The most important thing to me is developing trusting relationships,” he said. “Once trust is developed, everything else falls in place. It’s important to be open and not hold anything back.” 

Dr. Kamlesh (Kam) Lulla was honored with the 2021 "Great Immigrant, Great American," Award. Credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel
Lulla smiles with a robot for senior citizens. Credit: Kamlesh Lulla
Lulla interviewing astronaut and moonwalker John Young for a NASA TV segment on “Why Explore Space?” for a space science workshop in 1990. Credit: Kamlesh Lulla
Lulla, far right, represents the University Collaboration and Partnership Office at a Space Act Agreement signing ceremony in 2019 with leaders from NASA's Johnson Space Center and the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Credit: NASA