Erika Hamden

Director of the Space Institute
Associate Professor of Astrophysics

Dr. Erika Hamden is a tenured professor of astrophysics at Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona. She has been the Director of ASI since 2023. She specializes in building space and stratospheric telescopes and developing technology to make telescopes better. 

Dr. Hamden is a leader in the field of space astrophysics, and has created programs to teach early career scientists how to develop their own space missions (NASA's PI Launchpad). She is the PI of Hyperion, a MIDEX Mission Concept, and the PI of Eos, a SMEX mission Concept to be proposed in 2025. She is the deputy principal investigator of Aspera, a NASA Pioneers SmallSat telescope in development for launch in 2025. She is also the Institutional PI of FIREBall-2, a UV multi-object spectrograph Balloon mission.

Dr. Hamden received a bachelors in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Harvard in 2006. She worked as a chef for a year before beginning grad school at Columbia University. She worked with Prof. David Schiminovich, finishing her PhD in 2014. She moved to Caltech for a postdoc, working with Prof. Chris Martin and was an NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow and the R.A. and G.B. Millikan Prize Postdoctoral Fellow in Experimental Physics at the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Hamden was awarded a Nancy Grace Roman Technology Fellowship for her detector work in 2016. She received a PECASE award in 2019 and has received numerous other awards from NASA. She is a TED Fellow, a AAAS If/then Ambassador, an aspiring astronaut, and a social media influencer.


  • Astronomy PhD, 2014, Columbia University
  • Astronomy M.Phil, 2010, Columbia University
  • Astronomy M.S., 2010, Columbia University
  • Astronomy & Astrophysics A.B., 2006, Harvard College