Occupation: Planetary Scientist
Year born: 1959
Research Areas: Jupiter’s Moons, Comets
"I feel like a modern-day explorer; the last frontier is space"
Source: APS Physics
Claudia was born in Vancouver, Canada and grew up in California, USA. She wanted to be a historian, but her parents wanted her to be an engineer. Claudia discovered her love of planetary science during an internship at NASA’s Ames Research Centre. She was meant to be concentrating on engineering but kept sneaking off to the science section. Claudia studied for a degree in geophysics and a master’s in geophysics and space physics. She was awarded a PhD in space physics from the University of Michigan.
Claudia has researched many different topics in planetary science and space physics including plate tectonics, space plasma, Venus, comets, and Jupiter and its moons. Claudia worked for the US Geological Survey before joining NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She was quickly promoted from science coordinator to project manager of the Galileo mission. The mission sent the first robotic spacecraft to orbit Jupiter. Galileo found 21 new moons of Jupiter and discovered that Jupiter’s moon Ganymede has an atmosphere.
Claudia later became Project Scientist for ESA’s Rosetta mission. Rosetta was a space probe that studied and landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. As the Project Scientist, Claudia led the team of scientists and ensured the success of the mission. She had to understand how several different scientific instruments worked and make vital decisions. Claudia has said she enjoyed representing NASA and the United States on a European mission.
Claudia mentored young people, particularly young girls of colour, to encourage their passions for science. The University of Michigan set up the Claudia Alexander Scholarship to financially support undergraduates who were in need. A feature on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has been named after Claudia.
Claudia enjoyed writing and authored children’s books, science fiction and romance stories. She also enjoyed tennis, horse riding and travelling.