Alumna Margaret Meixner Selected by USRA to Lead the SOFIA Science Mission Operations

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Margaret Meixner, Director of SOFIA Science Mission Operations (SMO). (Credit: USRA)

Dr. Margaret Meixner ('87, electrical engineering) has been named Director of Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Science Mission Operations by Universities Space Research Association (USRA).

SOFIA, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) major airborne astronomical observatory world-wide, conducts observations in the far-infrared that are unique and impossible to obtain even with today's largest, most advanced high-altitude ground-based telescopes. 

As Director of SOFIA, Dr. Meixner will lead and manage SOFIA Science Mission Operations. She will provide the scientific, technical and management guidance for the SOFIA team and work in partnership with the Deutsches SOFIA Institut to amplify the scientific productivity and influence of the observatory. Dr. Meixner will work closely with NASA to ensure the success of SOFIA so it remains at the forefront of research in astronomy, astrophysics, and planetary science.

In USRA's press release, Dr. Ghassem Asrar, USRA Senior Vice President of Science, stated, "We are thrilled to have Margaret aboard. Her scientific and technical knowledge of infrared astronomy observations and science together with her management experience and community leadership complements our existing and talented team to guide SOFIA moving forward. We are excited to have Margaret join USRA as we continue to fulfill our mission of supporting U.S. space programs in science, technology and education."   

Before joining USRA, Dr. Meixner was at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, where she held several leadership positions since 2002. She is currently James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Project Scientist, and the former Instruments Division Deputy and former Webb Instrument Team Lead. She was elevated to Distinguished Astronomer, STScI in 2017, and has been Community co-Chair of the Origins Space Telescope Science and Technology Definition Team since 2016. In addition, she is a Principal Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University, and a member of NASA's Astrophysics Advisory Committee.

Dr. Meixner is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Astronomical Society, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the American Association of University Women (AAUW). She was awarded the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) Science Achievement Award in 2009, an STScI Achievement Award in 2004 for Outstanding Functional Work at STScI, and received the 1994 Annie Jump Cannon Special Commendation of Honor.

She earned her B.S. degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics in 1987 from the University of Maryland, College Park, and received her master and doctorate degrees in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley.

Published April 15, 2020