Dr. Jane Rigby, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, was recently awarded the 2022 LGBTQ+ Scientist of the Year by Out to Innovate.
The winners of its 2022 recognition awards for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) professionals in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) were initiated by the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Professionals (NOGLSTP), which officially transitioned to Out to Innovate in 2021.
The LGBTQ+ Scientist of the Year Award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding contributions to their field through design, research, or management. Rigby, an astrophysicist, is also the Operations Project Scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (Webb). Rigby earned degrees in both physics and astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University and her Ph.D. in astronomy from University of Arizona. Rigby develops new techniques to study galaxy evolution, star-forming galaxies, and active galactic nuclei.
“When I was a student, all through college, I wasn’t aware of any LGBTQ role models,” Rigby said. “I hope I’m part of the last generation who grow up without queer role models. I hope this award brings hope to queer folks pursuing careers in STEM, and I hope it reminds organizations that inclusion matters every single day. I also see this award as a recognition of how transformative Webb will be for astronomy — I’m so proud of helping that telescope become a reality.”
Rigby and her team at NASA, with international collaborators, have led many successful research campaigns, collecting data from the Keck and Magellan Observatories and the Hubble Space Telescope. She has published more than 100 peer-reviewed publications. She also has given numerous professional and public presentations on her research and on the James Webb Space Telescope. Rigby has been recognized for her research, mentorship, and diversity-related work with awards such as the John C. Lindsay Memorial Award for Space Science and served on the 2020 Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics for the National Academies.
Rigby serves as a trustee of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and was a founding member of the AAS Committee for Sexual-Orientation and Gender Minorities in Astronomy. One letter of support noted that they “especially admire Jane’s unwavering stand that she is a *better* astronomer because she is queer…because of the leadership training she received as a LGBT activist, and because of the resilience she has developed by surviving as an LGBT person.”
When asked what advice she has for future LGBTQ+ scientists interested in research in this world and beyond, she offered: “Do fabulous science, be fabulous, and be kind.”
Out to Innovate has recognized exemplary individuals with LGTBQ+ Educator, Engineer, and Scientist of the year for over 15 years.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is home to the nation’s largest organization of scientists, engineers and technologists who build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study Earth, the sun, our solar system and the universe.