Maria Zuber’s research focuses on the structure and tectonics of solid solar system objects. She specializes in using gravity and laser altimetry measurements to determine interior structure and evolution and has been involved in more than half a dozen NASA planetary missions aimed at mapping the Moon, Mars, Mercury, as well as several asteroids. She was principal investigator for the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) and as such became the first woman to lead a NASA spacecraft mission.
Zuber received her B.A. in astronomy and geology from the University of Pennsylvania. She also earned Sc.M. and Ph.D. degrees, both in geophysics, from Brown University. Zuber later worked at Johns Hopkins University and served as a research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. She joined the faculty of MIT in 1995 where, as chair of the Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences between 2003 to 2012, she became the first woman to lead a science department at MIT.
She currently serves as MIT's Vice President for Research.
Freshman Advising Student Champion Award (2015) | Elected Member, Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars (2015) | Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award, The Explorers Club (2014) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Dawn Science Team (2013) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter-Laser Ranger Optical Communication Experiment (2013) | Space Pioneer Award in Science and Engineering, GRAIL Team, National Space Society (2013) | MIT James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award (2012-2013) | Harry H. Hess Medal, American Geophysical Union (2012) | NASA Outstanding Public Leadership Medal (2012) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the GRAIL Science Team (2012) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the GRAIL Project Office Team (2012) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the GRAIL Mission Formulation Team (2012) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Team (2010) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Laser Ranging Team (2009) | U.S. News & World Report/Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership List of America’s Best Leaders (2008) | Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa, Brown University (2008) | Fellow, Geological Society of America (2008) | Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2007) | Carl Sagan Memorial Award, American Astronautical Society/Planetary Society (2007) | G. K. Gilbert Award, Geological Society of America (2007) | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Outstanding Teamwork Award for the Earth-Mars Laser Ranging Experiment (2006) | Horace Mann Medal, Brown University (2005) | Member, American Philosophical Society (2005) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter Science Definition Team (2005) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Mercury Laser Altimeter Instrument Team (2004) | NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal (2004) | Member, National Academy of Sciences (2004) | Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2004) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Mars Global Surveyor Project Science Team (2003) | List of 50 Most Important Women in Science, Discover Magazine (November) (2002) | Scientific Achievement Award, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, New England Section (2002) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Shoemaker Mission Team (2002) | Fellow, American Geophysical Union (2001) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Mars Program Independent Assessment Team (2000) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Mars Global Surveyor Science Team (2000) | E. A. Griswold Chair in Geophysics, MIT (1998) | Asteroid 6635 Zuber, discovered and designated by Carolyn and Eugene Shoemaker at Palomar Observatory in 1997; approved by the IAU in 1998 (1998) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft encounter of Asteroid 253 Mathilde (1998) | NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award (1995) | David S. Olton Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Student Research, Johns Hopkins University (1995) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Deep Space Program Science Experiment Lunar Orbit Mission Operations Support Team (1994) | Oraculum Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Johns Hopkins University (1994) | Second Decade Society Faculty Development Chair, Johns Hopkins University (1993-1995) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Mars Observer Payload Development Team (1993) | NASA Outstanding Performance Award (1992, 1991, 1990, 1989, 1988) | NASA Group Achievement Award for the Mars Observer Laser Altimeter Project (1991) | NASA Peer Award (1988) | Sigma Xi (1985, 1983)