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Thomas Zurbuchen named head of NASA Science Mission Directorate

19 October 2016

Thomas Zurbuchen
Thomas Zurbuchen

SPIE Member Thomas Zurbuchen was named as the new associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate Monday, 3 October. SMD works with the science community, sponsors scientific research, and develops and deploys satellites and probes in collaboration with NASA's partners around the world. With a working budget of nearly $5.3 billion, SMD encompasses NASA's Earth Science, Planetary Science, Heliophysics, and Astrophysics Divisions.

Zurbuchen's experience includes research in solar and heliospheric physics, experimental space research, space systems, and innovation and entrepreneurship. He is a professor of space science and aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and founding director of the University's Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering.

Zurbuchen has previous ties to the agency, having been involved with several NASA science missions. His work on the agency's Ulysses mission in 2006 earned him a NASA Group Achievement Award. Other honors include receiving the National Science and Technology Council Presidential Early Career for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) Award in 2004 and the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Young Researcher Award in 1996-1997.

During his career, Zurbuchen has authored or coauthored more than 200 articles in refereed journals on solar and heliospheric phenomena, including SPIE journals and conference proceedings. He most recently presented findings on the scientific potential and technological promise of CubeSats at SPIE Optics + Photonics 2016, where he was also session chair for the Solar and Planetary Exploration symposium.

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