France A. Córdova

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France Córdova
France A. Córdova official photo.jpg
Córdova in 2017
14th Director of the National Science Foundation
In office
March 31, 2014 (2014-03-31) – March 31, 2020 (2020-03-31)
PresidentBarack Obama
Donald Trump
Preceded bySubra Suresh
Succeeded byKelvin Droegemeier (acting)
Sethuraman Panchanathan
11th President of the Purdue University System
In office
July 16, 2007 (2007-07-16) – June 30, 2012 (2012-06-30)
Preceded byMartin C. Jischke
Succeeded byTimothy Sands (acting)
Mitch Daniels
7th Chancellor of the University of California, Riverside
In office
July 1, 2002 (2002-07-01) – July 1, 2007 (2007-07-01)
Preceded byRaymond L. Orbach
Succeeded byTimothy P. White
Personal details
Born (1947-08-05) August 5, 1947 (age 73)
Paris, France
Spouse(s)Christian Foster
EducationStanford University (BA)
California Institute of Technology (MS, PhD)
Scientific career
InstitutionsNational Science Foundation
Purdue University
University of California, Riverside
University of California, Santa Barbara
Pennsylvania State University
Los Alamos National Laboratory
ThesisX-ray observations of dwarf novae (1979)
Doctoral advisorGordon Garmire

France Anne-Dominic Córdova (born August 5, 1947) is an American astrophysicist and administrator, who was the fourteenth director of the National Science Foundation.[1] Previously, she was the eleventh President of Purdue University from 2007 to 2012.[2]


Early years[edit]

Córdova was born in Paris, France, the eldest of twelve children. Her mother was Irish-American and her father a Mexican-American West Point graduate and businessman.[3][4] She attended high school at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, California, east of Los Angeles and went on to Stanford University, where she graduated cum laude with a bachelor's degree in English and conducted anthropological field work in a Zapotec Indian pueblo in Oaxaca, Mexico. She earned a PhD in Physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1979.[5]


Córdova worked at the Space Astronomy and Astrophysics Group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1979 to 1989, where she also served as Deputy Group Leader. She headed the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University from 1989 to 1993. In 1993, Córdova became a NASA Chief Scientist.[6]

Córdova then went to the University of California, Santa Barbara where she was Vice-Chancellor for Research and a Professor of Physics. In 2002 she was appointed Chancellor of the University of California, Riverside, where she was also a Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy. Córdova led the initial steps toward establishing the UC Riverside School of Medicine.[7]

Córdova became the eleventh president of Purdue University in 2007 and promoted student success and the commercialization of interdisciplinary research.[8] Her administration oversaw the establishment of Purdue's College of Health and Human Sciences and its Global Policy Research Institute.[9][10] At the end of her term, Purdue's trustees credited her with leading the school to record levels of research funding, reputational rankings, and student retention rates.[11]

Córdova's scientific career contributions have been in the areas of observational and experimental astrophysics, multi-spectral research on x-ray and gamma ray sources, and space-borne instrumentation. She has published more than 150 scientific papers, most recently in 2007. In September 2007, she was appointed to the board of directors of BioCrossroads, Indiana's initiative to grow the life sciences through a public-private collaboration that supports the region's research and corporate strengths while encouraging new business development.

President Barack Obama appointed Córdova to the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution in 2009, and she served until 2014.[12] She was chair of the Board of Regents from 2012 to 2014.

In 2014, Córdova was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate as the 14th head of the National Science Foundation.[13]

After her retirement from NSF, Córdova was elected to the Caltech Board of Trustees in June 2020.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Córdova is married to science educator Christian J. Foster, with whom she has two children, Anne-Catherine and Stephen.[15]

Honors and awards[edit]

In 1996, Córdova received NASA's highest honor, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. She was recognized as a 2000 Kilby Laureate, for "contributions to society through science, technology, innovation, invention, and education." She was named one of the 80 Elite Hispanic Women by Hispanic Business Magazine in 2002. In 2008, Córdova was nominated to the Stanford University Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame by El Centro Chicano, Stanford's Chicano and Latino organization. She was appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Science Board in 2008. In 2012, she received the Women in Space Science Award from the Adler Planetarium.[16]

Purdue University's France A. Córdova Recreational Sports Center was named for her in 2012. A 98-million-dollar renovation of the 55-year-old facility was approved during her presidency.[17] The building was one of 10 recreation facilities to receive a Facility of Merit Award for 2014 from Athletic Business.[18]

Córdova is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a National Associate of the National Academies. She has received numerous honorary doctorates, including from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles (1997), Ben Gurion University of the Negev (2011), Purdue University (2012), Duke University (2015), the University of Connecticut (2016), and Rochester Institute of Technology (2016).


  1. ^ Morello, Lauren (March 12, 2014). "US Senate approves France Córdova to lead NSF". Nature. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  2. ^ Medaris, Kim (July 9, 2007). "Córdova to hold ice cream social July 16 on first day as Purdue president". Purdue News Service. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  3. ^ "UC Riverside names system's first Latina chancellor". Black Issues in Higher Education. April 10, 2003. Archived from the original on October 13, 2004. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  4. ^ "Frederick B. Cordova Jr., Obituary".
  5. ^ DeCordova, France Anne-Dominic (1979). X-ray observations of dwarf novae (Ph.D.). California Institute of Technology. OCLC 436998222 – via ProQuest.
  6. ^ Kahn, Jerry (1999). Women in Physical Science Careers. Mankato, Minnesota. pp. 11–12. ISBN 0-7368-0015-8.
  7. ^ Trounson, Rebecca (November 11, 2005). "A Medical School for UC Riverside?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  8. ^ "Purdue inaugural launches new efforts for students, 'discovery with delivery'". Lafayette Online. Purdue University News Service. April 12, 2008. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  9. ^ "Purdue President To Step Down". WRTV. July 1, 2011. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  10. ^ "Who's Who in Education". Indianapolis Business Journal. October 1, 2011. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  11. ^ "Purdue trustees pay tribute to 2 university leaders". Purdue University. May 11, 2012. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
  12. ^ "Purdue's Córdova to serve as Smithsonian regent" (Press release). Purdue University. September 21, 2009. Retrieved September 22, 2009.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Morello, Lauren (March 12, 2014). "US Senate approves France Córdova to lead NSF". Nature. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  14. ^ "France Cordova Elected as New Caltech Trustee". Pasadena Now. June 10, 2020.
  15. ^ "Press release : Cordova named NASA Chief Scientist" (TXT). Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  16. ^ "Adler board names Women in Space Science winner". March 28, 2012. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  17. ^ Weddle, Eric (October 12, 2012). "Purdue approves sports center". WISH-TV. Archived from the original on November 20, 2012. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  18. ^ Super User. "2014 Facilities of Merit: France A. Cordova Recreational Sports Center - Athletic Business". Retrieved January 14, 2015.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Raymond L. Orbach
7th Chancellor of the University of California, Riverside
Succeeded by
Timothy P. White
Preceded by
Martin C. Jischke
11th President of the Purdue University System
Succeeded by
Timothy Sands (Acting)
Mitch Daniels
Government offices
Preceded by
Subra Suresh
14th Director of the National Science Foundation
Succeeded by
Kelvin Droegemeier (Acting)
Sethuraman Panchanathan