Marcia Neugebauer is the founding vice chair of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Advisory Council for Women. She focused her studies and career on solar wind and developed analytical techniques vital to understanding the flow of energetic particles from the sun and its impact on Earth. These studies allowed her to become a prominent physicist who has made contributions to space instruments that yield directional measurements with solar wind and opened the idea of physics and the interaction of comets.
The developments Marcia brought to science increase solar activity, influences solar wind, and powers orbital and terrestrial electronics. In the future, as these communications systems become increasingly important to businesses everywhere, understanding the solar wind will become vital to fine-tuning these technologies.
Marcia was the co-principal investigator of the Mariner 2 plasma analyzer that made the first unambiguous measurements of solar wind. She has worked on instruments that orbited Earth, were set upon the moon, and have flown by Halley's Comet. These instruments were pivotal in the Apollo program and the European Giotto mission.
Marcia has management and project positions at the JPL, including manager of the Physics and Space Physics sections, acting manager of the Mariner Mark II study team, and project scientist for Rangers 1 and 2 and the Comet Rendezvous Asteroid Flyby mission.
Marcia has served on many committees for both NASA and the National Academy of Sciences, most recently chairing the academy's Committee on Solar and Space Physics. She has also been active in the American Geophysical Union (AGU), including terms as editor-in-chief of its journal, Reviews of Geophysics, and as the AGU president.
In 1967, Marica was named California Woman Scientist of the Year by the Museum of Science and Industry. She received three NASA medals: the Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award, the Outstanding Leadership Medal, and the Distinguished Service Medal (the highest award given by NASA). She received an honorary doctorate of physics in 1998 from the University of New Hampshire where she received the Arctowski Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.
Marcia majored in physics, receiving a bachelor of arts from Cornell University and a Master of Arts from the University of Illinois. She was employed at the JPL until her retirement in 1996, with intermittent visiting appointments at Cambridge University, California Technical Institute, and UCLA.