Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Brief Bio


Dr. Rita Sambruna is the Deputy Director of the Astrophysics Division, Code 660. Previously she was at HQ, where she held positions of science management and leadership. In 2019 she was awarded the NASA Extraordinary Achievement Medal for her leadership on the 2020 Astrophysics Decadal Survey studies. Rita was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2020, Fellow of the American Astronomical Society in 2021, and Fellow of the AAAS in 2021. She received a Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Astronomical Society in 2023 for her many contributions to science research and management at NASA, and a NASA Honor Award and the Robert H. Goddard award for DEIA in 2023.

Research Interests


Dr. Rita Sambruna

Astrophysics: Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN)

Relativistic jets; physics of compact objects; supermassive black holes in galaxies; Multiwavelength and Multimessenger Astrophysics; space missions and exploration

Positions/Employment


Deputy Director, Astrophysics Science Division

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD

July 2020 - Present

Manages and supervises a workforce of 400 in astrophysical projects and programs, with a budget of over $1B. Foster creativity and innovation through active oversight of ongoing efforts in technology and research. Provides strategic directions to the Division that align with the priorities of the Astrophysics Decadal, the Center, and the Agency. Advocates for under-privileged communities within the Division and NASA.


Program Scientist and Decadal Study Scientist

NASA HQ - Washington, DC

September 2010 - January 2020


Senior Scientist

NASA's GSFC - Greenbelt, MD

July 2005 - September 2010


Clare Boothe Luce Professor of Physics and Astronomy

George Mason University - Fairfax, VA

July 2000 - August 2005

Teaching Experience


From 2000 till 2005, Dr. Sambruna was the Clare Boothe Luce Professor of Astrophysics at George Mason University, where she taught undergraduate and graduate classes and led an independent research program supported by external funds. She received the NSF CAREER and NASA LTSA awards.

Rita continues to mentor individuals and especially early career scientists, aiming to be the catalyst for their blossoming in professional and personal environments. She has helped several colleagues achieve recognitions and land permanent jobs at NASA.

Education


October 1994, PhD, SISSA/ISAS, Trieste, Italy. Thesis: The X-ray Properties of Blazars

October 1992, Master Phil. SISSA/ISAS, Trieste, Italy. Thesis: The EXOSAT Spectral Survey of Blazars

October 1989, Laurea degree, Univ. of Milan, Italy. Thesis: X-ray Observations the Magnetic Cataclysmic Variables E1405--451 (V834 Cen) and E1013--477 (KO Vel)

Professional Societies


American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Member

2019 - Present


American Astronomical Society

Fellow

1991 - Present


American Physical Society

Fellow

2020 - Present


High Energy Astrophysics Division

Member

2000 - Present


Royal Astronomical Society

Honorary Fellow

2023 - Present

Professional Service


Member of the NASA Advisory Committee, 2022-2023.

Co-chair of the first independent review of the NASA's Hubble Fellowship Program, 2022.

Rita is an ardent champion and advocate of Inclusion, Diversity, Accessibility, Equity, and Justice. For her achievements in supporting and advocating for under-privileged communities, she has received the NASA DEIA Medal and the Robert H Goddard award in 2022.

Awards


Selected Awards:

Honorary Fellowship of the RAS, 2023

NASA Extraordinary Achievement Medal, 2020

Commander of the Republic of Italy, 2021 (highest civilian honor in Italy)

NSF CAREER, 2014

NASA LTSA, 2000

Clare Boothe Luce Professorship, 2000

NRC Research Fellowship, 1995-1997

Other Professional Information


38th on list of “Top Italian Scientists” [107 out of 455; 09 May 2020]

Among World’s Top 2% of Scientists (top 3% in subfield of Astronomy & Astrophysics).  (cf. Ioannidis JPA, Boyack KW, Baas J (2020)[1]

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[1] https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000918&type=printable

Special Experience


Rita is a certified Yoga Teacher with specialization in Yoga for Cancer. She is trained in Applied Behavior Analysis and its applications to non-human animals. Rita speaks Italian, French, Latin/Greek, and a bit of Spanish.