A Trio Of Women Are Making History By Heading Up NASA's Science Divisions
NASA/Thomas Zurburchen

There are now female scientists at the helm of three out of four divisions within NASA.

And yes, it's historic.

Three women have recently taken charge in NASA's Earth Science, Heliophysics and Planetary Sciences divisions. These women—Sandra Cauffman, Nicola Fox, and Lori Glaze—are now the leading scientists at NASA, making strides towards new space missions and research projects within the agency.


Sandra Cauffman is the newest acting director of the Earth Science division, and takes the reigns when it comes to learning about our home planet. Born and raised in Costa Rica, Cauffman displayed an interest in space travel from a young age, pouring over every science fiction book she could find.

Even when she was younger, she dreamed of exploring the great beyond.

Cauffman said in an interview with NASA:

"I just remember telling Mom I wanted to go to the Moon."

Early on in her NASA career, she found herself being one of the only women in the room, and quickly learned to speak up in a male-dominated environment. Years later and with several Mars missions under her belt, Cauffman now makes sure that everyone in her division is heard, as she leads them in learning about the benefits of our planet.

"What we do in observing Earth as a system gives us the additional benefit of helping humans here on Earth survive hurricanes, tornadoes, pollution, fires, and help public health. Understanding the oceans, the algae blooms — all of those things help humans right here on Earth."

Nicola Fox has earned the title of director of the Heliophysics division. She is responsible for all of NASA's research and exploration of the most important star: the sun.

She attributes her love of space to a personal connection with the Apollo 11 moon landing—having watched it on television with her father at only eight months old.

"Dad takes credit [for my space science career]."

Fox added:

"To him, the best thing you could do in life was to work at NASA."

Fox became the lead in the Heliophysics department in September 2018 and immediately was taken by NASA's capacity to accept and include people from all walks of life.

"If you think about the diversity of roles that take getting a mission into space, all different types of jobs come together. If you want to work at NASA, there's a job for you."

Now, her job is to learn how exactly the sun impacts Earth, and to further learn how to protect explorers from its harmful radiation.

Lori Glaze is the new leader of the Planetary Science division. Her job is to maintain all explorations and missions pertaining to the history and evolution of our solar system.

Her mother, an aeronautical engineer, is one of Glaze's biggest inspirations. She admired her persistence to be seen in a male-dominated field.

Glaze said to NASA:

"That was a tremendous inspiration for me, as a young woman, seeing that a technical career, a career in leadership in a mathematical or scientific field, was possible."

While in college, she learned of the impact of volcanoes on Earth, as well as on other planets. This sparked an interest in learning about the formation of lava, and the reasons for eruptions.

She was involved in several of NASA's Venus missions, and was the principal investigator of a Venus atmospheric entry probe concept called Deep Atmosphere Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI).

"It's the most diverse group of people I've ever worked with and it's the kind of place where you feel like everyone's ideas are being heard; and really moving along and advancing our understanding in how we want to go about doing science at NASA. I think it's a great place to be today."

Each of these women bring expertise in their respective fields to make NASA stronger than ever.

They are sure to continue to inspire for years to come.


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