Kivelson Succeeds Harrison as Chair of Space Studies Board

Kivelson Succeeds Harrison as Chair of Space Studies Board

Margaret Kivelson is the new chair of the Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  She succeeds Fiona Harrison who stepped down in order to co-chair the ongoing Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics. Harrison was the first woman to chair SSB in its 61-year history. Now Kivelson is the second.

Margaret Kivelson standing next to the engineering model of the Galileo spacecraft at JPL’s museum. Credit: NASA website.

Kivelson is Professor of Space Physics, Emerita at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a research professor at the University of Michigan. Her specialty is magnetospheric plasma physics of the Earth, Jupiter and Saturn.

She was principal investigator for the magnetometer for the Galileo mission to Jupiter and is credited as one of discoverers of an ocean under Europa’s icy crust using data from the Galileo magnetometer.  Europa is one of Jupiter’s moons.

She now is a co-investigator on NASA’s Europa Clipper mission that will launch in the early 2020s to further investigate that ocean.  Her SSB biography states that “she is not involved in decision making or as an advocate” for the magnetometer on that mission, however.  Her appointment therefore does not violate the Academies’ conflict-of-interest policies.

She was also on the magnetometer team for the Cassini mission to Saturn and is a co-investigator on the Themis set of five satellites in Earth and cis-lunar orbits.

The New York Times profiled her in October 2018, telling the story of how she and colleagues deduced Europa’s subsurface ocean from the Galileo magnetometer data, as well as many of her other scientific achievements.  NASA’s solar system website has a brief oral history summarizing her life and career.

Kivelson received her Ph.D. in physics from Radcliffe College. She was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1999.

Her work has been recognized with many awards, including the Royal Astronomical Society’s 2019 Gold Medal “for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in understanding planetary magnetospheres and their connections to the planets they surround.”  The award was announced in January 2019 and will be presented in July.

In announcing the award, the Society called her “a true servant of the space science community” as well as a role model for women scientists.

Overcoming prejudices against female scientists who combined career and family responsibilities, Margaret Kivelson is an inspiration to young women in space science. Still highly active and productive at the age of 90, Professor Kivelson is an inspiration, too, to young women and older researchers alike. — Royal Astronomical Society

Her 2-year appointment as SSB chair was announced by SSB on April 1.  Established in 1958, the SSB provides independent, authoritative advice on all aspects of space science and applications.  It is perhaps best known for its Decadal Surveys, conducted every 10 years (a decade) for NASA and other government agencies, that prioritize the key science questions to be answered in astronomy and astrophysics, planetary sciences, solar and space physics (heliophysics), earth science and applications from space, and biological and physical sciences in space.  Colleen Hartman is the Board’s Director.

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