France Cordova: A Stunning Career Record

France CordovaInspired by Niels Bohr, Albert Einstein and the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, France Cordova became an astro-physisist and worked at Los Alamos for most of the 1980s.

Cordova, now aged 65, was the first of twelve children born to a Mexican father and American mother. After Los Alamos she carved out a stunning academic career becoming Chancellor of UC Riverside in 2002 and President of Purdue University five years later. She celebrated the latter appointment by hosting an ice-cream social (Handshakes and Milkshakes) and has become a role model for a diverse new generation of scientists.

Like our Spring Hero Freeman Hrabowski, France Cordova has little time for those who pigeon-hole students by saying that certain works is for boys and girls don’t go to graduate school. She is a champion of ambitious youth and works especially hard to bring females and minorities to the sciences. Cordova created a leading research university at Riverside, with its seventy percent representation of minorities, and developed Project Copernicus to encourage better science teaching.

“We know that the universe emits not only invisible light, but also X-rays and gamma rays, sometimes in fits and bursts. I marvel at all these things, and I marvel more at the evolution of thinking and discovery that has led to our understanding. I think sometimes, there is nothing finer, nothing deeper, nothing truer, than to be connected to the tide of the universe. I am thrilled to analyse data, to write papers to try to explain nature, to further, a little, the collective knowledge about the universe.”

Our Hero Cordova was named one of ‘America’s 100 Brightest Scientists Under 40’ by Science Digest Magazine, was a winner of NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


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