Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.


Getting a Foot in the Door

Getting a Foot in the Door

More From France

In this video

Córdova describes how she got her start in the journalism business after college.

France's Biography

Charity of Choice: Smithsonian
Biggest Influence Never Met: Einstein
Three Words to Describe Herself: Energetic, analytical, and inquisitive 
Proudest Accomplishment: “That I've lived a life of integrity, that I've been true to myself, and as fair and honest to others as I am able to be.”

France A. Córdova, an internationally recognized astrophysicist, once said, “I didn’t have a strategic plan for my life. I have an appetite for discovery. I’m an explorer and I follow my best instincts.” Indeed, those instincts propelled Córdova to become the youngest person and first female chief scientist at NASA.
Córdova's prolific scientific contributions include more than 200 journal articles and reports, as well as numerous critical space-borne instrumentation experiments. Her equally formidable career in academia includes five years as head of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University, eight years as a professor of physics and vice chancellor for research at UC Santa Barbara, as well as her position as chancellor and distinguished professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Riverside. She joined Purdue as the university's first woman president and a Professor of Physics and Astronomy in 2007, serving through July 2012. 
In March 2014, Córdova joined the Obama administration when she was named director of the National Science Foundation for a 6 year term.
Córdova graduated cum laude from Stanford University, and went on to earn her PhD in physics from the California Institute of Technology. Throughout her career, Córdova has received numerous awards and honors including 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." In addition to serving on a myriad of boards, she is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Women in Science, and has received presidential appointments, including one by George W. Bush to the National Science Board in 2008, and another in 2009 by Barack Obama to the Smithsonian's Board of Regents, to which she was subsequently elected as chair.

Related Videos

Marin Alsop
Marin Alsop
First Woman Conductor of a Major American Orchestra

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Marin Alsop is a lot more than just the first female conductor of a major American orchestra. Alsop is also the Chief Conductor of the Sao ...

Diane von Furstenberg
Diane von Furstenberg
Iconic Fashion Designer

Diane Halfin, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, was just out of school and already working when she married into the House of Furstenberg in 1969. Not content to idle as Prince...

Geraldine Ferraro
Geraldine Ferraro
Vice-Presidential Nominee

The daughter of first-generation Italian American immigrants, Ferraro (1935-2011) would later remember her mother’s fierce insistence that her talented daughter continue her ...

Maria Shriver
Maria Shriver
Journalist, Author, & Former First Lady of California

Born into the public eye, Maria Shriver forged a path of her own as a network journalist, author, and in an unforeseen turn, First Lady of California. Shriver grew up outside of Wa...