Dr. Ann F. Whitaker has been named director of the Science Directorate at
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., overseeing 700
civil servant and contractor employees who perform a wide array of science

“Science affects every aspect of our lives,” said Whitaker. “This
research – encompassing fields such as materials science, biotechnology,
optics, Earth science and space science – is needed to advance our nation’s
technology across a broad spectrum. It’s exciting to be part of those

Whitaker has served as the Science Directorate’s deputy director since
August 2000.

A pioneer in developing methods for predicting the performance of materials
in the space environment, Whitaker’s NASA career began in 1963 when she
joined the Marshall Center as a physicist in the former Propulsion and
Vehicle Engineering Laboratory.

Her early career included contributions to the Saturn program that launched
Americans to the Moon, and the Long Duration Exposure Facility – a series of
flight experiments to characterize environmental effects in space.
Information gleaned from Whitaker’s early research continues to support
material selection for present-day space systems, including the
International Space Station.

Whitaker became chief of Marshall’s Physical Sciences Branch in 1977, chief
of the Engineering Physics Division in 1984, and chief of the Project and
Environmental Engineering Division in 1993.

In 1995, she was selected for the Senior Executive Service, and held key
leadership positions within Marshall’s Science and Engineering Directorate.
These included deputy director of the Space Sciences Laboratory and director
of the Materials, Processes and Manufacturing Department.

She has a bachelor’s degree in physics from Berry College in Rome, Ga., a
master’s degree in physics from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and
a doctorate in materials engineering from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

Whitaker has received numerous awards during her distinguished career,
including NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal, Exceptional Engineering
Achievement Medal, Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Achievement
Award, and Rank of Meritorious Executive. A resident of Huntsville, she and
her husband, John Whitaker, are the parents of one daughter, Leann.

The Marshall Center is NASA’s lead center for development of space
transportation and propulsion systems and advanced large optics
manufacturing technology, as well as microgravity research – scientific
research in the unique low-gravity environment inside the International
Space Station and other spacecraft.