Maria Zuber

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Maria Zuber
Co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
Assumed office
January 20, 2021
PresidentJoe Biden
Preceded byPosition established
Personal details
Born (1958-06-27) June 27, 1958 (age 65)
Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania (BS)
Brown University (MS, PhD)
AwardsNASA Distinguished Public Service Medal
Scientific career
FieldsPlanetary science
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Thesis Unstable Deformation in Layered Media: Application to Planetary Lithospheres  (1986)
Doctoral advisorE. M. Parmentier

Maria T. Zuber (born June 27, 1958) is an American geophysicist who is the vice president for research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she also holds the position of the E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.[1] Zuber has been involved in more than half a dozen NASA planetary missions aimed at mapping the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and several asteroids. She was the principal investigator for the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) Mission, which was managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.[2]

Since January 2021, Zuber serves as co-chair of President Joe Biden's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). She was previously a member of the National Science Board.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Maria T. Zuber was born on June 27, 1958, in Norristown, Pennsylvania.[4] She grew up in Summit Hill, Pennsylvania, in Pennsylvania's Coal Region, one of five children of Joseph and Dolores (Stoffa) Zuber. She has three brothers, Joseph Jr., Stephen, and Andrew (1966–2018), and a sister, Joanne.[5] Both her grandfathers were coal miners and contracted black lung disease.[6]

Zuber received her B.A. in astronomy and geology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1980; she was the first person in her family to attend college.[4]

Zuber earned Sc.M. and Ph.D. degrees, both in geophysics, from Brown University in 1983 and 1986 respectively.[7] Reflecting on her decision to apply to Ivy League graduate schools and not MIT, Zuber joked "I remember saying, I don't want to go to any nerd school... and of course, I'm the biggest nerd there is."[4]


Zuber later worked at Johns Hopkins University and was a research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. She joined the faculty of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1995 and was the head of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences from 2003 to 2012.[1] She is the first woman to lead a science department at MIT.[2] Since 2012, she has been vice president for research at MIT.[8]

Zuber's professional focus has been on the structure and tectonics of solid solar system objects. She is a pioneer in the measurement of the shapes of the surfaces of the inner planets, and in interpreting what those shapes mean for internal structure and dynamics, thermal history, and surface-atmosphere interactions. She specializes in using gravity and laser altimetry measurements to determine interior structure and evolution. The topographic maps of Mars and the Moon produced by her laser altimeters on the Mars Global Surveyor and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft are more accurate than that of Earth. She has been a team member on 10 NASA planetary missions, including Mars Global Surveyor, Dawn, and MESSENGER.[1][9]

Jim Adams, NASA Deputy Director of Planetary Division, left, and Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, talk during the countdown to launch of the twin GRAIL spacecraft on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011, at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Zuber became interested in planetary science at an early age. A desire to spread her childhood enthusiasm was one reason why she teamed up with former astronaut Sally Ride to include in the GRAIL mission components that would capture the imagination of young students. A student contest provided the names for the mission's two spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, and students can sign up to use GRAIL's Moon Knowledge Acquired (MoonKAM) by Middle school students.[2][10]

In January 2021, Zuber was appointed co-chair of President-elect Joe Biden's President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).[11]

Honors and awards[edit]

Zuber is a fellow of the following professional societies:[1]

The asteroid 6635 Zuber, which orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter,[31] is named for Zuber.[32]


Maria Zuber CV (PDF)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Maria Zuber Vitae". MIT. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory: Biography -- Maria Zuber". NASA. Retrieved July 15, 2021.[dead link]
  3. ^ "National Science Board". National Science Board. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c "InfiniteMIT | Maria T. Zuber". Retrieved December 31, 2021.
  5. ^ "Andrew Zuber Obituary (2018)". Times News. January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  6. ^ "3Q: Maria Zuber, daughter of coal country". MIT News. February 27, 2017. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  7. ^ "Maria Zuber Vitae". Retrieved December 31, 2021.
  8. ^ Bradt, Steve (November 27, 2012). "Maria Zuber appointed vice president for research". MIT News.
  9. ^ "MESSENGER NASA Science Update Panel Biographies". Applied Physics Laboratory. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
  10. ^ "The World We Dream - Maria Zuber Zeitgeist Americas 2012". YouTube. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  11. ^ Bradt, Steve (January 15, 2021). "Biden taps Eric Lander and Maria Zuber for senior science posts". MIT News. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  12. ^ "The 50 Most Important Women in Science". Discover Magazine. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  13. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved May 27, 2021.
  14. ^ "2007 GK Gilbert Award - Maria T. Zuber". Geological Society of America. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  15. ^ Ewers, Justin. "America's Best Leaders: Fiona Harrison & Maria Zuber, NASA scientists". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  16. ^ "Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter". Goddard Space Flight Center. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  17. ^ "MIT Killian Lectures". MIT Killian Lectures. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  18. ^ "In Depth | GRAIL". Solar System Exploration: NASA Science. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  19. ^ "Harry H. Hess Medal". American Geophysical Union. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  20. ^ "MESSENGER". Applied Physics Laboratory. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  21. ^ "Working to Create a Spacefaring Civilization". National Space Society. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  22. ^ a b "Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter". Goddard Space Flight Center. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  23. ^ "LRO-LR Home Page". Goddard Space Flight Center. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  24. ^ Greicius, Tony (February 11, 2015). "Dawn". NASA. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  25. ^ "The Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award". The Explorers Club. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  26. ^ "Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars to induct 15 new members". The Hub. April 9, 2015. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  27. ^ "SSERVI Announces 2017 Award Winners". Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  28. ^ "2019 Prize Recipients". American Astronomical Society. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  29. ^ "Maria Zuber Awarded the 2019 Gerard P. Kuiper Prize in Planetary Sciences". MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  30. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  31. ^ "(6635) Zuber Asteroid". Universe Guide. March 27, 2019. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  32. ^ "MIT Scientist to Discuss "Expedition to an Asteroid" at Williams, Sept. 26". Williams College. Retrieved April 6, 2019.

External links[edit]