Press Release

Belinda Wilkes Chosen to Lead the Chandra X-ray Center

By SpaceRef Editor
March 19, 2014
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Belinda Wilkes Chosen to Lead the Chandra X-ray Center

Professor Charles Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, announces that after an extensive search, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), in consultation with NASA, has selected Dr. Belinda Wilkes as the next director of the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC). She will assume the directorship on April 20, 2014.

Based in Cambridge, MA, the CXC is responsible for the operations of the Chandra X-ray Observatory and for maximizing the scientific return from Chandra, one of NASA Astrophysics’ four Great Observatories. “Chandra is our principal responsibility to the world of astrophysics,” said Professor Alcock, “and we are very pleased that such a highly qualified candidate has accepted this position.” Dr. Wilkes will succeed Dr. Harvey Tananbaum who has led the CXC since its inception in 1991.

Dr. Wilkes has served as the CXC assistant director for the past 12 years. In this capacity, she has demonstrated the expertise necessary to lead the CXC and to continue and extend the success of the Chandra mission. She has worked effectively with members of the CXC staff and has developed strong working relationships with NASA Headquarters and the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), which manages Chandra.

“Dr. Wilkes will be an outstanding director and will continue the tradition of advancing astronomy and astrophysics via Chandra’s unique and vital contributions to these fields,” said MSFC’s Dr. Martin Weisskopf, Chandra’s project scientist.

Dr. Wilkes is well known to Chandra’s international user community through her lead role in organizing and managing the annual peer review for Chandra observing, archival and theoretical research proposals. Her extensive knowledge of the needs of Chandra users will enable Chandra to continue its excellent service to the astronomical community. “Belinda Wilkes is a first-rate scientist who really connects with the ever-expanding community of Chandra users,” said Professor Jon Miller of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who serves as chair of the Chandra User Committee. “It is terrific that she will be guiding Chandra into the future.”

Prior to her current position, Dr. Wilkes served as deputy group leader of the Chandra User Support Group. From 1990 to 1995 she was lead data verification scientist for the ROSAT Science Data Center at SAO, and before that she supported validation and verification of the Einstein X-ray Observatory data reprocessing. She is a distinguished and highly cited research scientist with 145 papers in refereed journals. “I have known and worked with Belinda Wilkes for a number of years,” said Dr. Jeffrey Hayes, Chandra Program Executive in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “I am so very pleased to know that the Chandra mission will be continuing under such capable hands.”

Dr. Wilkes’s primary science interests are X-ray and multi-wavelength studies of quasars along with lower luminosity active galactic nuclei. She has successfully competed for observing time on three of NASA’s Great Observatories — Chandra, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Spitzer Space Telescope — as well as many other space-based and ground-based facilities.

As an active member of the science community, she has served on a wide range of committees including the AAS HEAD Executive Committee, the Astrophysics Subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council, the NRC/SSB Review Panel on NASA’s SMD Science Plan, and various user and advisory committees and review panels for space and ground-based telescopes.

Dr. Wilkes received her B.Sc. (Hons.) from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and her Ph.D. from Cambridge University, England. Before coming to SAO she held a NATO Post-doctoral Fellowship at Seward Observatory, University of Arizona. She is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Cambridge Philosophical Society, and a member of the American Astronomical Society and the International Astronomical Union. She has received several NASA Group Achievement awards, the NASA MSFC Director’s Commendation, and many Smithsonian Institution awards including the Exceptional Accomplishment Award.

Janet Anderson
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
+1 256-544-6162

Megan Watzke
Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Mass.
+1 617-496-7998

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.

More information on the Chandra X-ray Observatory:

SpaceRef staff editor.