Dr. Rita Sambruna


Rita Sambruna is the Program Scientist of the Physics of the Cosmos Program (PCOS), which encompasses a broad range of science topics including Cosmic Microwave Background, High Energies, and Gravitational Waves. Within this Program, she oversees the implementation of the Astrophysics Decadal Survey priorities for PCOS, and manages the Strategic Astrophysics Technology program, which supports technologies to achieve these priorities.

Dr. Sambruna is the Program Scientist for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) gravitational wave observatory and for the Neutron-star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER). LISA, an ESA-led flagship mission, is poised to revolutionize our understanding of the Universe, which will be able to “hear” with low-frequency gravitational waves. NICER, an X-ray Mission of Opportunity operating from the International Space Station, launched in 2017, provides timing-resolved spectroscopy of pulsars (rotating neutron stars), to decipher the status of matter in their compact insides.

Dr. Sambruna also serves as Deputy Program Officer for the Astrophysics Data Archival Program (ADAP), and leads the review of the extragalactic proposals. She is also the lead for Strategy for the Astrophysics Division, and works in collaboration with other colleagues in SMD to document the Division progress in implementing the science priorities of the Astrophysics Decadal survey. In particular, Rita is the Program Officer for the Probes mission concept studies, which NASA has started in preparation for the 2020 Astrophysics Decadal survey (https://science.nasa.gov/earth-science/decadal-surveys).

Before joining NASA in 2005, Dr. Sambruna was a tenured Professor at George Mason University, where she was conducting research and teaching. Her astrophysics interests are the study of the condition of matter around supermassive black holes (jets, winds, warm absorbers), which she studied with X-ray and Gamma-ray observatories, including Chandra, XMM-Newton, and Fermi. She now adds gravitational waves as a complement to studies of the Universe in the electromagnetic band.

After work, Rita enjoys practicing and teaching yoga. She is a certified RYT200 yoga teacher, with specialization in Yoga for Cancer. She lives in Fairfax, VA, with husband Joe Pesce and six beautiful, smart, very demanding parrots.

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