Dr. Melissa McGrath Named Deputy Director of Science, Technology Directorate at NASA's Marshall Center
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
News Release: 05-007
Dr. Melissa Ann McGrath has been appointed deputy director of the Science and Technology Directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
McGrath, a former astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, supports Dr. Ann Whitaker, director of Marshall's Science and Technology Directorate, in managing operations and business planning for the organization, and helps oversee all Earth and space science activities at the Marshall Center.
The directorate studies new technologies for investigating other worlds -- the core of the Vision for Space Exploration, which seeks to extend human reach throughout the Solar System. In her new role, McGrath helps oversee the research efforts of nearly 450 civil servant and contractor employees, who perform a range of research and test activities in fields including Earth science, space science, optics, advanced propulsion and materials science.
“Dr. McGrath’s distinguished career in astronomy and her exhaustive pursuit of knowledge about worlds beyond our own make her invaluable to our team,” Whitaker said. “Her appointment will increase the Marshall Center’s esteem across the science community -- and will help ensure our successful pursuit of NASA’s mission.”
McGrath joined NASA in January 2005, after 12 years at the Space Telescope Science Institute, the non-profit science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope -- the first of NASA’s Great Observatories, launched in 1990. Most recently, McGrath was manager of the Institute’s Community Missions Office, overseeing contracts and developing new business ventures.
A native of Grand Island, Neb., McGrath earned a bachelor’s degree in 1977 in astronomy and physics from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. She earned a master’s degree in 1984 and a doctorate in 1987 -- both in astronomy -- from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
McGrath taught education and science at the University of Virginia between 1981 and 1984. In 1987, she was invited to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore as a postdoctoral research fellow. In 1991, she became an associate research scientist with the university’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. She remained an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins until 1994.
McGrath joined the Space Telescope Science Institute in 1992. She managed Hubble science teams and other researchers from 1993 to 1997 as chief of the Institute’s Science Planning Branch. As systems integration manager from 2000 to 2001, she developed new business and managed projects such as NASA's Kepler Discovery mission, expected to launch in 2007 to search for Earth-like planets around distant stars.
Among her key roles at the Institute was serving between 1994 and 2001 as an instrument scientist on Hubble spectrographs -- instruments that break up light and other electromagnetic radiation into component wavelengths, then record the spectrum and send the data back to Earth. During the first seven years of Hubble’s flight, the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph measured ultraviolet light to help researchers analyze the chemical composition of stars, planets and galaxies. It was replaced in 1997 by the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, designed to help scientists understand the origins, properties and dynamics of space itself.
McGrath is a member of numerous astrophysical organizations, including the American Astronomical Society and the International Astronomical Union. She is the author or co-author of more than 50 technical publications, primarily focused on atmospheric and planetary studies of other worlds and moons in the Solar System.
A native of Grand Island, Neb., Dr. McGrath is married to Dr. James Kinnally, a nuclear scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.
For more information on the Internet about science at the Marshall Center, visit: