Wheeling Jesuit University

Ohio Valley Native to Serve as Wheeling Jesuit’s Alumni Scholar in Residence

WHEELING, W.Va., Aug. 25, 2015 – Ohio Valley native and a senior scientist at Smart Data Solutions, LLC, working for the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA Headquarters, will be Wheeling Jesuit University’s (WJU) 2015 Alumni Scholar in Residence.

Christina Richey, WJU class of 2004 and a 2000 graduate of East Liverpool High School, will share her love of science and community service with students at her alma mater Sept. 15-18. Richey will teach in several classes throughout the week and will offer a public lecture as well.

The Alumni Scholar in Residence program gives Wheeling Jesuit alumni the chance to share their experiences and expertise with today's students. The program was born from the University's 50-Year Club five years ago. Richey is the fifth and youngest WJU graduate to serve as an Alumni Scholar in Residence. All expenses incurred by the alumni scholar are donated, as a gift, to WJU.

WJU Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Robert Phillips said, “I know our students will benefit greatly from Christina’s expertise as a scientist and from her experiences with NASA. The lessons she will provide our students in the classroom that week and her public lecture will provide all of us with knowledge we can use now and in the future. She represents the values of a Wheeling Jesuit education well – excelling is her career, while being a woman in service to others.”

“WJU not only paved the way for my career as a discipline scientist at NASA, but also gave me an understanding of the meaning of service to others and how to be a leader for change. I’ve taken that knowledge and have built a career in sciences that not only helps me, but the entire community, and that has lead to a fulfilling and rewarding career and life,” Richey said.

In addition to a successful career as a scientist, Richey remains true to the WJU mission to be a person of service. In addition to speaking at WJU this year, she previously spoke at a two-day event in her hometown, East Liverpool, Ohio, where she brought educational outreach activities to Westgate School in order to “bring NASA home.” She also served at the 2012 commencement speaker at East Liverpool High School.

“Being able to give back to the university, and help shape the future leaders that are currently attending WJU, is a great honor. I hope the students take away from this experience the knowledge that they can have whatever career they like and still be able to help the community around them. As a NASA program manager, I also hope they take away an appreciation and respect of space science and all the great opportunities NASA provides,” she added.

Her public lecture will address the upcoming missions at NASA in Planetary Sciences, in particular the OSIRIS-REx mission. The lecture, which is open to all, will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 in the Erickson Alumni Center, located inside the Center for Educational Technologies Building at WJU.

Following the completion of her undergraduate degree in physics at WJU, Richey earned a master’s and doctorate in physics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where she did laboratory investigations related to both the icy moons of the outer solar system and the interstellar medium.

She joined NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Astrophysics Science Division as a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow in 2011. She also was a participant of the NASA-Nordic Summer School and spent part of 2012 in Iceland, studying water, ice and the origin of life in the Universe.

In 2013, Richey joined Smart Data Solutions and is the deputy science adviser for SMD. She compiles and distributes information about the R&A awards from the SMD Divisions, and focuses on communication with the greater communities working directly with the SMD. Additionally, she is the deputy program scientist in the Planetary Science Division for the OSIRIS-REx Mission (the Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security- Regolith Mission). OSIRIS-REx is scheduled for launch in 2016 and will travel to a near-Earth Asteroid, called Bennu and bring back a returned sample to Earth for study. Richey is also a cross-divisional discipline scientist, leading R&A programs in both the Planetary Science Division, as well as the Astrophysics Division at NASA HQ.

In 2015, Richey became chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. She also is an active blogger for Women in Astronomy. She was previously a member of the Division for Planetary Science’s Federal Relations Subcommittee, and a sitting member of the Women in Astrophysics at Goddard Roundtable Panel. She was president of the NASA Goddard Association of Postdoctoral Scholars. She was awarded the 2014 Special Service Award at NASA Headquarters for her work within the Planetary Science community.

While at UAB, Richey was active in service participating in several outreach efforts in the greater Birmingham area, including development projects in lower-class communities with the Junior League of Birmingham, and disaster relief efforts with Helping Hands after the 2011 tornado outbreak. That same year, she was given the Outstanding Service to the Department and Community Award from the UAB Department of Physics.


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