Dr. Yvonne Pendleton is the Director of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute. Pendleton joined NASA Ames in July 1979 having earned her Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Under NASA sponsored programs, she obtained a Master’s Degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University (1981) and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of California at Santa Cruz (1987). As a research astrophysicist in the Space Science and Astrobiology Division from 1979-2005, Yvonne published 80 scientific papers and contributed significantly to our understanding of the origin and evolution of organic material in the universe. The goal of her ongoing research program is to understand the composition of the organic material found in the interstellar medium and to investigate the incorporation of the organic material from space into the early Earth environment. She is an elected fellow of the California Academy of Science and Asteroid 7165Pendleton was named in honor of her research contributions.
Appointed Chief of the Space Science and Astrobiology Division at NASA Ames Research Center in 2005, she led a scientific and technical staff of 160 people. When asked to serve as the senior advisor for research and analysis programs for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, she moved to Washington, DC from 2007-8. There she provided independent assessments and guidance to the Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate concerning NASA’s science research programs and increased scientific productivity across the nation as the time required to evaluate and award research grants was significantly reduced. During that time she was also responsible for the Education and Public Outreach of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and led a team that managed the nearly 50 million dollar investment made in EPO activities, including those from NASA’s science missions. Returning to NASA Ames in July of 2008, Yvonne became the deputy associate director where she provided guidance and direction to several collaborative scientific and technical efforts and served as an academic Dean of Students for the several hundred students on the Ames campus each summer.
Yvonne has been very active in education and public outreach throughout her career. She served as the Director for Research for the NASA Ames Astrobiology Academy in 2004, developed the Voyages Through Time education curricula with the SETI Institute, served as an astronomer to local classrooms for over a decade with the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and taught astronomy at the college level as an adjunct lecturer at Santa Clara University.
To read more about Yvonne, please read "A Lifetime Spent Studying the Stars, Searching for Answers," a biography of Dr. Yvonne Pendleton on the official NASA-Ames Research Center website.