NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named Thomas Zurbuchen as the new associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, effective Monday, Oct. 3.
Zurbuchen is a professor of space science and aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He also is the university’s founding director of the Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering. Zurbuchen’s experience includes research in solar and heliospheric physics, experimental space research, space systems, and innovation and entrepreneurship.
“Thomas brings a wealth of scientific research and engineering experience to the Science Mission Directorate,” Bolden said. “His diverse background and hands-on knowledge align well with NASA and our world-class team of scientists and engineers.”
During his career, Zurbuchen has authored or coauthored more than 200 articles in refereed journals on solar and heliospheric phenomena. Although he has never worked for NASA, Zurbuchen has connections to the agency. He has been involved with several NASA science missions — Ulysses, the MESSENGER spacecraft to Mercury, and the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE). He also has been part of two National Academy standing committees, as well as various science and technology definition teams for new NASA missions.
Zurbuchen earned his Ph.D. in physics and master of science degree in physics from the University of Bern in Switzerland.
His honors include receiving the National Science and Technology Council Presidential Early Career for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) Award in 2004, a NASA Group Achievement Award for the agency’s Ulysses mission in 2006, and the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Young Researcher Award in 1996-1997.
“It’s absolutely thrilling to be embarking on this journey,” Zurbuchen said. “Today, NASA is leading efforts to answer a host of important questions for humanity: Where do we come from? How did life originate? How are Earth’s environments changing? There has never been a more pivotal time to solve these mysteries, and I’m looking forward to the charge.”
Zurbuchen succeeds acting Associate Administrator for Science Geoffrey Yoder, who is retiring from NASA in December.
“With more than 16 years in industry and 16 years at NASA, Geoff’s story is not only of individual success and hard work, but also of NASA’s transition to a new era of space exploration, in which he played many key leadership roles,” said Bolden. “He has accomplished what most of us come here hoping to do — move our mission – and America’s space program – forward.”