Lori Magruder Named Director of Center for Space Research

Photo of Dr. Lori Magruder
Dr. Lori Magruder is appointed as the Director of the Center of Space Research on January 1, 2024. Photo credit: University of Texas au Austin Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics

Lori Magruder, an associate professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics (ASE/EM), has been named director of the Center for Space Research (CSR), effective Jan. 1. Prior to becoming director, she served as associate director of research and communications from 2020 – 2022, then as the center’s interim director throughout 2023. Srinivas Bettadpur served as previous director from 2018 – 2023.

The Center for Space Research has led critical scientific space missions since its inception in 1981, when Byron Tapley, an emeritus professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, established it. CSR researchers have modeled and analyzed Earth’s dynamics using satellite technology, generating important insights about changes in land water distribution, alterations in global topography, depleted aquifers, sea level fluctuations, ocean currents, glacial ice mass and more. In addition, CSR has played significant roles in many flagship NASA missions that include TOPEX, GRACE, GRACE-FO, ICESat and ICESat-2.

Magruder, an expert in remote sensing and 3D geospatial data exploitation for Earth science, has a long history with CSR, beginning with her years as a Ph.D. student where she worked under former ASE/EM professor Bob Schutz on ground-based validation studies for NASA’s ICESat laser altimetry mission. Fast-forward to 2020 after spending 14 years at UT Austin’s Applied Research Laboratories, Magruder returned to Texas ASE/EM and CSR as an associate professor. And now, she’s making history by becoming the first woman director of the center.

“I’m thrilled to be leading CSR into new initiatives of space and science applications. The center has such a rich history under previous leadership in research and development that it is an exciting time to build on that legacy and continue to move forward,” said Magruder. “We will keep our core focus in geodesy and remote sensing but look to expand into new areas of big data science, data product development and ML/AI solutions crafted specifically for Earth and space sciences.”

Magruder has been an essential member of the ICESat-2 team for a decade, leading the Science Team to support mission development and early on-orbit satellite operations for ICESat-2. She also served as the principal investigator for the satellite’s precision pointing determination operational program and now continues to provide geolocation validation studies and data product development for ICESat-2 bathymetry.

Magruder received her Ph.D. from UT Austin’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics in 2001. She has held positions at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and leads many other NASA and Department of Defense remote sensing programs with her expertise in geospatial topics and applications.

“We are on the cusp of new efforts in quantum technology and distributed mission design with touch points in monitoring how climate variability impacts Earth processes and societal vulnerabilities,” said Magruder. “CSR is a unique place to engage with many aspects of recent government and commercial space innovation and is poised to grow all technical areas currently represented by the diverse, multidisciplinary research expertise of the CSR research staff.”

Magruder said she also plans to maintain strong relationships within the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and the Jackson School of Geosciences while growing collaborations across campus. She is also dedicated to educating CSR graduate and undergraduate research students, while also working with the center’s nationally recognized team of STEM K-12 educators and programs to cultivate the next generation of engineers and scientists.

She holds the Myron L. Begeman Fellowship in Engineering. Learn more about Magruder’s work on her research website.

Source: https://www.ae.utexas.edu/news/lori-magruder-named-director-of-center-for-space-research