Hired at NASA’s Ames Research Center right after graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1979 with a degree in aerospace engineering, Dr. Yvonne Pendleton has spent her career helping us to understand our place in the universe.
As a research astrophysicist in the Space Science and Astrobiology Division, she studied the composition of the organic material found in the interstellar medium and investigated the incorporation of this organic material from space in to the early Earth environment. While working at Ames she earned her master’s degree at Stanford and her doctorate in astrophysics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Publishing 80 scientific papers on her research, she was elected a fellow of the California Academy of Science and the Asteroid 7165Pendelton was named in honor of her contributions.
Active in education and public outreach she has served as an astronomer to local classrooms and developed the Voyages Through time education curricula with the SETI Institute. A series of big changes in her career started in 2005 when she was appointed Chief of the division she had been part of since starting at Ames, leading a scientific and technical staff of 160 people.
In 2007 she moved to Washington D.C., spending a year serving as the senior advisor for research and analysis programs for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. Returning to Ames she became the Deputy Associate Center Director as well as an academic Dean of Students for the large groups of students working at the center each summer. Pendleton was named Director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute in 2010 and helped it grow into the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute in 2013. SSERVI is focused on solar system science and exploration and as its director she oversees the activities of more than 300 researchers across the nation and its collaborations with nine international partnerships.
In 2014 Pendleton was a recipient of a Woman of Influence Award by the Silicon Valley Business Journal and the next year she was honored with one of NASA’s highest awards, the Outstanding Leadership Medal.
Written by Angela Goad