Dr. Claudia Alexander Bio

Claudia Alexander Claudia J. Alexander, Ph.D., is a research scientist specializing in geophysics and planetary science. She has worked for the United States Geological Survey and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. As member of the technical staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, she was the last project manager of NASA's Galileo mission to Jupiter and is currently the Project Scientist of NASA's contribution to the European-led mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Alexander wanted to be a journalist, but her parents—who were paying for her education—wanted her to become an engineer. After a summer job at NASA's Ames Research Center, in Palo Alto, CA, she became interested in planetary science. Although she had been hired to work in the engineering section, she would sneak off to the science section where she found that not only was she good at the work, but that it was easier and more enjoyable to her than she had expected. In 1983 she received a Bachelor degree in Geophysics from the University of California, Berkeley which she thought would be a good background for a planetary scientist. Alexander earned her Master's from University of California, Los Angeles in Geophysics and Space Physics in 1985. She earned her Ph.D. in the physics of space plasma from the University of Michigan in 1993 —where she was named Woman of the Year.

While a student, she worked at the United States Geological Survey studying plate tectonics and the Ames Research Center performing theoretical melting and freezing of the Jovian moons before moving to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1986. She worked as science coordinator for the plasma wave instrument aboard the Galileo spacecraft before becoming the project manager of the Galileo mission.

Alexander has worked as a researcher on diverse topics, including: the evolution and interior physics of comets, Jupiter and its moons, magnetospheres, plate tectonics, space plasma, the discontinuities and expansion of solar wind, and the planet Venus. She has written or co-authored 21 papers, and made a substantial contribution to the science-learning Windows to the Universe website.

In 2003, she was awarded the Emerald Honor for Women of Color in Research & Engineering by Career Communications Group , Inc.—publisher of Black Engineer & Information Technology Magazine—at the National Women of Color Research Sciences and Technology Conference. She received a 2005 NASA leadership medal.

In 2007, she appeared in Black Enterprise Magazine, and in 2008 the University of Michigan named a scholarship fund after her — the University of Michigan Claudia Alexander Scholarship Fund. She has appeared on numerous Discovery Channel, History Channel, and NOVA programs.

Alexander is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the American Association of Astrophysics (Division of Planetary Science) and the Association for Women Geoscientists.