Prize Recipient

Recipient Picture

France A. Cordova
National Science Foundation


"For visionary and stellar impacts as an astrophysicist and leader on the public understanding and appreciation of science, on science and technology policy, on broadening participation in science and engineering, and on enabling and celebrating the benefits of science—especially physics—to society."


The Honorable France A. Córdova is an astrophysicist and the 14th director of the National Science
Foundation (NSF). Córdova was nominated to this position by the President of the United States in 2013
and subsequently confirmed by the U.S. Senate. NSF is a $8.1B independent federal agency; it is the only
government agency charged with advancing all fields of scientific discovery, technological innovation,
and STEM education. 

Córdova has been a leader in science, engineering and education for more than three decades. She has a
distinguished career in both higher education and government; her contributions in multi-spectrum
research on x-ray and gamma ray sources and space-borne instrumentation have made her an
internationally recognized astrophysicist.  She is president emerita of Purdue University, chancellor
emerita of the University of California, Riverside and former vice chancellor for research at the
University of California, Santa Barbara. Córdova served as chair of the Board of Regents of the
Smithsonian Institution and on the board of trustees of Mayo Clinic. She also served as NASA's chief
scientist and is a recipient of the agency's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal. Prior to
joining NASA, Córdova was the astronomy department head at Penn State and deputy group leader at
Los Alamos National Lab.

She received her B.A. from Stanford University and her Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of

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