WASHINGTON — Dava Newman started work as NASA Deputy Administrator May 18, filling the number-two post at the agency that had been vacant for more than a year and a half.

Newman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, was sworn in at her office there May 15, and started work at NASA Headquarters three days later. “I’m very excited to be at NASA,” she said in an agency statement May 18.

“I have known and admired Dava for several decades,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in the NASA statement. “Her talents and skills as an educator and technological innovator will bring a new energy to our NASA leadership team, and I’m ecstatic to have her on board.”

The White House first nominated Newman to the position Oct. 16, and resubmitted her nomination Jan. 8 after the new Congress convened. The Senate Commerce Committee favorably reported the nomination out of committee on March 25 on a voice vote, without discussion.

The Senate confirmed her nomination April 27 on an 87–0 vote after a brief discussion on the Senate floor. “We need a professional in there to help Gen. Bolden along with his very dedicated team,” said Sen. said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who was one of only two senators to speak about the nomination during that debate.

The position of NASA deputy administrator had been vacant since Lori Garver left the agency in September 2013 to become general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...