Spotlight on Alumni

Gina Dibraccio

dibraccioGina Dibraccio was a young girl when she developed an interest in space. Her parents encouraged her, saving articles about NASA for her to read, taking her to visit their local planetarium, and eventually buying her a telescope. “As I learned more about the planets and our sun, I knew I wanted to explore further,” she says. And in the years since, that interest has grown exponentially.

Originally from Bucks County, PA, Gina attended the University of Pittsburgh where she graduated with a B.S. in Physics and Astronomy, as well as a B.S. in Business Administration. In her senior year, she was selected for an internship at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH. Afterward, became a NASA Co-op student, alternating between working at NASA and taking classes. Ultimately, she decided that she wanted a role that allowed her to participate in NASA missions and scientific analysis, so she moved to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. It was while there that she accepted an offer to enter the Ph.D program at CLaSP.

“I was interested in CLaSP because it gave me the opportunity to work with leading world experts in my area of research,” says Gina. “It also allowed me to continue my research at NASA while working with the students and faculty at Michigan. CLaSP offered me a great environment for research, networking, and collaboration that has helped to accelerate my career.”

Gina received her Ph.D. in Atmospheric and Space Sciences from CLaSP, as well as an M.S. in Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences. Her research delves into understanding the relationship between the planets in our solar system and the sun, more specifically how the magnetic environments at each planet react to changes in the solar magnetic field.

She now works as a scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in the Planetary Magnetospheres Laboratory. She’s the Project Scientist of the MAVEN mission at Mars and her primary research involves investigating magnetic fields at Mars, and measuring how they are affected by changes in the Sun’s solar wind. “I work in a group that builds magnetometers,” Gina says. “And I am responsible for analyzing the magnetic field data.” I her work also involves data from the MESSENGER mission at Mercury and Juno mission at Jupiter. And if that weren’t enough, she’s also involved in CubeSat mission planning.

Does she miss her time at CLaSP? “I have so many amazing memories from my time in the department. It’s the people I was surrounded with that made it unforgettable. I felt a great sense of camaraderie with my fellow students... In particular, I loved playing intramural sports on our department’s team, Red Zeppelin. We had fun, developed great friendships, and even won some championships!”

Gina’s enthusiasm for physical activity continues to this day. She says she loves to be active. “I’m currently training for a marathon and I typically run several races each year. When I travel for work, I take advantage of opportunities to hike or run in new areas. To top it off, I’m also a fitness coach. I wake up extra early before work to lead fitness classes and motivate others to live a healthy life.”

All extracurricular activity aside, scientific inquiry remains Gina’s first love. “I’ve always enjoyed asking questions and learning about space, so pursuing this as a career was an easy choice for me.”