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Marcia Rieke Headshot

Marcia Rieke

Marcia Rieke (née Keyes) grew up in Midland, Michigan, in a household she describes as “standard Midwestern.” Her mother was a homemaker, her father a store manager at major retail outlets including J. C. Penney and Montgomery Ward. Every two weeks the family made an outing to the local library; there Rieke discovered an affinity for astronomy and science fiction. In junior high, she took babysitting jobs in order to save up money for buying a telescope. That investment paid dividends not just by revealing the wonders of the night sky but by instilling in her an aptitude for assembling scientific technology—a talent she would eventually apply to infrared-detection instruments aboard the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Near-Infrared Camera component of the James Webb Space Telescope. In June 2002, Marcia received the phone call from NASA appointing her the Principal Investigator on NIRCam; when she went down the hall to tell her husband, astronomer George Rieke, he was on the phone learning that NASA had appointed him U.S. team leader on JWST’s Mid-Infrared Instrument. The two of them, says Marcia, immediately agreed: “We’ll have to buy cellphones and hire someone to clean the house.”

Rieke received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1972 and a Doctor of Science in physics in 1976, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She then joined the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, and she retains those affiliations to this day, having advanced from research associate to assistant astronomer to associate professor to professor of astronomy to regents professor. 

Among the many honors that Rieke has received are inductions into both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2012. The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center awarded her its Robert H. Goddard Award for Science and its Exceptional Public Service Medal, both in 2014. NASA added to her honors with the Distinguished Public Service Medal in 2023.