Today, I heard the news that Claudia Alexander, PhD. passed away. I met Claudia at the 2015 CASC Conference in Edmonton, when she presented the keynote address to delegates. I was immediately impressed with her ability to make complex space science theory accessible - and interesting! - to people who aren't geophysicists (like me). I feel privileged to have been able to share in her passion for the mission during her talk at CASC2015.
By all accounts, she was intelligent, enthusiastic and skilled at bringing people and ideas together. What impressed me most about Claudia's story is that she became a scientist almost by accident. She originally wanted to study journalism in college, but her parents would only agree to pay if she studied something "useful", like engineering. She discovered a love for planetary science through a summer job and she worked hard to earn degrees in Geophysics and Space Physics.
Claudia's final assignment with NASA was as its Project Scientist in the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. As a female scientist working in a predominantly male-oriented field, Claudia demonstrated that a passion for science knows no gender boundaries and that career opportunities exist for those that work hard for them.
I found this quote on astronomy.com "She was known as a champion of STEM education and diversity... her words of advice to future researchers were that science and math take as much effort to master as becoming an athlete or musician, but the rewards are enormous."
Friends and family of Dr. Claudia Alexander established a scholarship fund for academic scholarships for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) students.