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Joan Centrella

Dr. Centrella is the Director of WVU’s Bridge Science and Technology Policy, Leadership, and Communications Initiative.

This multidisciplinary, University-wide initiative is jointly supported by the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Research at WVU. The Bridge Science and Technology Policy, Leadership, and Communications Initiative is rooted in WVU’s Land Grant Mission to lead transformation in West Virginia and beyond, through the application of research and through engagement at the local, state and global levels, and has a broad reach across the University. Key features will include facilitating faculty and student research, including coordinating S&T research with policy; expanding S&T policy communication and outreach; and enhancing opportunities for student learning.

Prior to joining WVU in November 2019, Dr. Centrella held key roles in government and academia. As a NASA scientist and administrator, she gained significant experience in Federal science policy implementation and planning, as well as public outreach. Her university roles as professor, graduate advisor, and research scientist provided experience and insight into the academic world, including teaching, faculty and student research, and program development.


  • University of Cambridge, Institute of Astronomy, PhD
  • University of Massachusetts at Amherst, BS (Astronomy)

Professional Experience

Before arriving at WVU, Dr. Centrella served as the Deputy Director for the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. She formed and led a strategic planning teams and supported cross-disciplinary science, partnering with other Goddard science divisions and reaching out across boundaries to engage colleagues in the Engineering Directorate.

She held year-long details in the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters, serving during 2012-2013 as Strategic Integration Lead, and more recently during 2018-2019 as Senior Scientist for Strategy, when she carried out a study of gender in leadership roles in the Astrophysics Explorer Program.

Before taking on her Division roles, Dr. Centrella served as the Chief of Goddard’s Laboratory for Gravitational Physics and led a research group that achieved a major breakthrough in simulating the gravitational waves produced by the merger of two black holes.

Prior to joining NASA, Dr. Centrella was a Professor of Physics at Drexel University, where she developed a research group focused on studying astrophysical sources of gravitational waves. She taught undergraduate and graduate physics and astronomy courses, supervised graduate and undergraduate students as well as postdocs, and served as the advisor for all incoming graduate students in the department.

In recognition of her scientific leadership and research, she was awarded the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for ground-breaking work in the simulation of gravitational wave signals from merging black holes. In addition, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center awarded her (jointly with John Baker) the John C. Lindsay Memorial Award for Space Science, their highest honor for outstanding contributions in space science. She was awarded the Robert H. Goddard Exceptional Achievement Award for Mentoring in 2013 for her demonstrated commitment to mentoring women scientists at all stages of their careers.

Dr. Centrella is the author of many scientific publications and has served on numerous professional panels and boards. These include the Program Prioritization Panel for Particle and Gravitational-wave Astrophysics for the 2010 National Academies Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey, the LISA International Science Team, and Chair of the Advisory Board for the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav).