Dr. Claudia Alexander (1959-2015)

Dr. Claudia Alexander passed away on July 11, 2015 following a ten year battle with breast cancer.

Dr. Alexander was well known for her work in geophysics and planetary science. She supported several space missions including NASA’s Galileo and Cassini and the ESA’s Rosetta, for which she served as project manager and scientist for NASA’s role in the mission. Her scientific studies have included the evolution and interior physics of comets, Jupiter and its moons, plate tectonics, magnetospheres, the solar wind, space plasma, and the planet Venus.

Alexander earned her PhD from the University of Michigan in 1993. She continued to have a strong relationship with U-M over the years, visiting often to give talks, to mentor students and to serve on the AOSS National Advisory Board. In 2002 her career and service were recognized through the presentation of the AOSS Alumni Merit Award.

In addition to her scientific career, Alexander loved horseback riding and writing. Her writing included science fiction, a series of science-learning children's books (Windows to Adventure) and forming a small publishing label (Red Phoenix Books, http://www.redphoenixbooks.com). Eric Betz, writing for Astronomy Magazine, wrote that Alexander "was also known as a champion of STEM education and diversity. In a NASA profile, 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." To recognize her STEM and diversity work, in 2003 she was awarded the Emerald Honor for Women of Color in Research & Engineering by Career Communications Group, Inc.—publisher of Black Engineer & Information Technology Magazine.

Alexander's PhD advisor at UM remembers that "she was always cheerful, full of optimism and energy. She was an enthusiastic planetary scientist, a dedicated educator, a great role model and a true fighter." Her fellow project scientist, Matt Taylor, on ESA's Rosetta mission stated “We have lost a great colleague and friend who will live on within us and the missions to the stars she made possible."

Several funds exist to honor the continued legacy of Dr. Claudia Alexander. Family members have launched a Memorial fund on gofundme.com which will be used to give academic scholarships to deserving STEM students. In 2007 her uncle, Jiles Williams, established the Claudia Alexander Scholarship for undergraduate students at The University of Michigan. Donations can be made to the University of Michigan by clicking here.

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