As a NASA astrophysicist, Dr. Barbara Thompson has had the opportunity to work as a scientist, data analyst, mission designer, instrument builder, teacher and spokesperson for NASA research. Occasionally, she performs all of these roles in a single day. She has appeared in scores of television programs and newspaper articles, and makes frequent appearances to help educate the public about the importance of the scientific exploration of space. She is currently leading the development of Solar Dynamics Observatory with the "Living With a Star" initiative, which will focus on the study of the turbulent Sun's impact on Earth and the science behind "Space Weather."
An unrepentant feminist, she has also enjoyed serving on all-male mission design teams and has spent weeks in the desert launching rocket experiments with her colleagues. She received her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Minnesota and Bachelor's degrees in Physics and Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania. Throughout her student and professional careers, she has been involved in political and social activities such as student government, a relief organization for the homeless of Philadelphia, political campaigns, and has served as a reporter on her college newspaper. She enjoys reading, sports and athletic activities, and manages to make a few bucks here and there by performing and teaching swing dance.