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Mark V. Sykes, Ph.D., J.D., Chief Executive Officer and Director

Mark Sykes

Mark grew up in the U.S. Air Force, living in numerous places around the country before going to college at the University of Oregon.  He spent summers conducting photometric and polarimetric studies of eclipsing binary stars at Pine Mountain Observatory and writing his Bachelor's thesis on a search for periodicities in the lightcurve of the black-hole system, Cygnus X-1.  He also studied music composition. 

In 1978 he received a Bachelor of Arts, Honors College, in Physics.  He subsequently studied Fourier optics and laser physics at the Oregon Graduate Center from which he received a Masters of Electronic Science in 1982.  He received his Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences from the University of Arizona in 1986 and was awarded its Gerard P. Kuiper Memorial Award for his research.  He discovered cometary dust trails, which revealed comets to be far more rocky (refractory) than previously thought and discovered numerous rings of dust surrounding the inner solar system arising from asteroid collisions between Mars and Jupiter. 

He served as a Co-Investigator on the NASA Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres in the asteroid belt.  He has served as Chair of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is a Fellow of the American Astronomical Society.  He has served on and chaired numerous NASA review panels and advisory groups. He is also the founder of the Planetary Exploration Newsletter (PEN). 

Mark received his Juris Doctor in 1998 from the University of Arizona and is admitted into the Arizona State Bar and to practice before the Federal District Court.  In 1991 he was honored by the International Astronomical Union with the designation of Minor Planet 4435 Sykes for his discoveries. In 2007 he was the first recipient of the NASA Planetary Science Division Distinguished Service Award.  In 2016 he was given the Harold Masursky Award for Meritorious Service to Planetary Science by the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society.

Mark has been CEO and Director of the Planetary Science Institute since 2004.

Maurizio (Maui) Balistreri, CPA, Chief Financial Officer


Maurizio is a Tucson native and received his Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management in 2005. He started his professional career as an auditor with a public accounting firm based in Tucson, AZ, specializing in Single Audits of Non-Profits. He later became the Corporate Controller for one of the largest home healthcare providers in Arizona before arriving at PSI. Maurizio was originally hired in 2012 as PSI’s Controller and then transitioned into the Chief Operating Officer role in 2018 prior to become the CFO in 2022.

Maurizio maintains an active CPA license in the state of Arizona and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Bruce Barnett, Senior Advisor

Bruce Barnett, CFO

Bruce arrived at the Planetary Science Institute in 2005 and served as Chief Financial Office up until 2022. He has more than twenty years of financial management experience including Director of Finance at Columbia University’s Biosphere 2 Center. Prior to transitioning to non-profit organizations, Bruce worked for the Lisa Frank Corporation in Tucson, AZ and during his years there he held the positions of Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer, and Director of Business Development.

Prior to moving to Arizona in 1994 he worked for the EZ Por Corporation, a national distributer of foil-ware products, in Wheeling, IL. as that company's Director of Operations and Controller.

Bruce received his bachelor’s degree in 1984 from Northern Illinois University with majors in Accounting and Finance, and his CPA from the State of Illinois in 1986. Bruce also served thirteen years in the U.S. Navy - four years of which was active duty assigned to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Six stationed in Norfolk, VA. He completed multiple deployments and 9 years active reserve duty assigned to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 51 stationed in Glenview, IL.




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