To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and Professor of Physics
Date: March 28, 2019
Re: 2019 Commencement Speaker
It is my pleasure to announce that Dr. France Córdova, distinguished astrophysicist, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Caltech alumna (PhD '79), will be Caltech's 2019 commencement speaker. She brings to the Institute perspectives on governmental and academic leadership, grounded in her scientific training at Caltech.
Appointed by President Obama in 2014 to lead the NSF, Córdova has developed interdisciplinary initiatives that cut across fields of scientific discovery, technological innovation, and STEM education. A $8.1 billion independent federal agency, the NSF maintains the competitive advantage of the United States through programs that empower future generations of scientists and engineers, and foster U.S. prosperity and global leadership.
Before assuming her position at NSF, Córdova served as president of Purdue University and as chancellor of the University of California, Riverside. From 1996 to 2002, Córdova served as vice chancellor for research and professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Córdova’s government service also includes time as NASA’s chief scientist from 1993 to 1996. She is the youngest person and the first woman to hold the position. Prior to joining NASA, Córdova was on the faculty of the Pennsylvania State University where she chaired the department of astronomy and astrophysics. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University and her doctorate in physics from Caltech.
Córdova has served as chair of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution and on the board of trustees of the Mayo Clinic. She is a long-standing member of the National Science Board (NSB), where she chaired the Committee on Strategy and Budget. As NSF director, she is an ex officio member of the NSB.
Córdova's scientific contributions have been in the areas of observational and experimental astrophysics, multi-spectral research on x-ray and gamma ray sources, and space-borne instrumentation. She has received many awards including NASA's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal.
Please join me in welcoming Dr. France Córdova back to campus on June 14.