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France A. Cordova

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France A. Cordova

France Anne Córdova
Born Paris, France
Alma mater Stanford University
California Institute of Technology
Institutions Purdue University
University of California, Riverside
University of California, Santa Barbara
Pennsylvania State University
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Profession Astrophysicist
Spouse Christian J. Foster

France Anne-Dominic Córdova (born August 5, 1947) is an American astrophysicist, researcher and university administrator. She was the eleventh President of Purdue University,[1] stepping down on July 15, 2012, at the end of her 5-year term. She presently serves as the chair of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. On July 31, 2013, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Córdova to be the Director of the National Science Foundation.[2]


Early years

Córdova was born in Paris, France, the oldest of twelve children born to a Mexican father and Irish American mother.[3] She attended high school at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, California, east of Los Angeles and went on to Stanford University, where she graduated cum laude with a bachelor's degree in English and conducted anthropological field work in a Zapotec Indian pueblo in Oaxaca, Mexico. She earned a PhD in Physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1979.


Córdova worked at the Space Astronomy and Astrophysics Group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1979 to 1989, where she also served as Deputy Group Leader, and headed the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University from 1989 to 1993. From 1993 to 1996, she became the youngest person and first woman to hold the position of NASA Chief Scientist, serving as the primary scientific advisor to the NASA administrator and the principal interface between NASA headquarters and the broader scientific community.

Córdova then went to the University of California, Santa Barbara where she was Vice-Chancellor for Research and a professor of Physics. In 2002 she was appointed Chancellor of the University of California, Riverside, where she was also a Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy. Córdova led the initial steps toward establishing the UC Riverside School of Medicine.[4] Córdova became the eleventh president of Purdue University in 2007 and promoted student success and the commercialization of interdisciplinary research.[5] Her administration oversaw the establishment of Purdue's College of Health and Human Sciences and its Global Policy Research Institute.[6][7] At the end of her term, Purdue's trustees credited her with leading the school to record levels of research funding, reputational rankings, and student retention rates.[8]

Córdova's scientific career contributions have been in the areas of observational and experimental astrophysics, multi-spectral research on x-ray and gamma ray sources, and space-borne instrumentation. She has published more than 150 scientific papers, and has a current experiment on the European Space Agency's X-Ray Multi-Mirror Mission. In September 2007, she was appointed to the board of directors of BioCrossroads, Indiana's initiative to grow the life sciences through a public-private collaboration that supports the region's research and corporate strengths while encouraging new business development.

Personal life

Córdova is married to science educator Christian J. Foster, with whom she has two children, Anne-Catherine and Stephen.[9]

Honors and awards

In 1997, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. In October 2008, Córdova was nominated to the Stanford University Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame by El Centro Chicano, Stanford's Chicano and Latino organization. She was also named one of the 80 Elite Hispanic Women By Hispanic Business Magazine in April 2002. She is the winner of NASA's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal, and was recognized as a 2000 Kilby Laureate, for "contributions to society through science, technology, innovation, invention, and education." She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). Córdova was appointed by George W. Bush to the National Science Board in 2008. She was also appointed by Barack Obama to the Smithsonian's board of regents in 2009.[10] In May 2011, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Ben Gurion University of the Negev. In September 2011, Córdova was elected as the chair of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, a three-year term that began in January 2012. Purdue University honored her with an honorary doctorate during spring commencement ceremonies in May 2012.

On September 14, 2011, she was honored during Hispanic Heritage Month activities held at Cleveland, Ohio.[11]

Purdue's Córdova Recreational Sports Center was named for her in 2012. A 98-million-dollar renovation of the 55-year-old facility was approved during her presidency.[12]


External links

  • UC Riverside Chancellor France A. Córdova Named Purdue University President
  • Purdue's new president 'out of this world'
  • Gale - Free Resources - Hispanic Heritage - Biographies - France Anne Córdova
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