Pawelczyk wins 2005 Penn State Faculty Outreach Award

March 16, 2005

(University Park, Pa) — Dr. James A. Pawelczyk, a former astronaut and currently associate professor of kinesiology and physiology at Penn State, has won the 2005 Penn State Award for Faculty Outreach.

image of James A. Pawelczyk

Pawelczyk was the first and, so far, only Penn State faculty member to serve as an astronaut and fly aboard the Space Shuttle. He served as one of two primary payload specialists on the 17-day Neurolab mission, STS-90, launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1998.

During the mission, Pawelczyk conducted a live, interactive, question-and-answer session with Penn State students at University Park and the College of Medicine at Penn Stateís Hershey Medical Center. The question-and-answer session was the first that a Shuttle astronaut held live and in-flight with post-secondary school students.

When Pawelczyk came back to Earth, he visited Penn State campuses throughout the Commonwealth to share his experience and its impact. At the suggestion of four students from Penn State New Kensington, he had carried Penn State grass seed aboard the Shuttle in the Official Flight Kit. After the flight, the seed was planted and Pawelczyk personally delivered one-square-foot sections of “space turf” to 20 of Penn Stateís 24 campuses, where he also lectured about his flight.

In all, Pawelczyk has made more than 100 presentations and demonstrations within the University and more than 100 presentations and exhibitions to schools and local groups throughout Pennsylvania, nationally and in foreign countries. He has also collaborated with Penn State Public Broadcasting to produce a series of educational broadcast modules for children about the Neurolab mission. The modules, which are still being used in middle-school classrooms across the country, have received several awards, including the 2000 Best-Produced Programming for Children Judgeís Merit Award and the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Award for Excellence.

In 2003, Pawelczyk testified to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on the value of research conducted aboard the International Space Station. That same year, Pawelczyk reached out to local and national media following the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy. He offered expert commentary to help readers, viewers and listeners understand the tragedy and what the impact might be on the future of the space program.

Currently, Pawelczyk serves as an invited member of a National Academy of Sciences (Institute of Medicine) panel evaluating human risk for extended travel to the moon and Mars. He is also a member of the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortiumís Internal Advisory Committee, where he helps guide all aspects of the Consortiumís community outreach activities as well as its research and education program.

“He exemplifies a faculty member who understands the value of extending the benefits of our scholarly endeavors to the community,” says Lisa L. Brown, director of the Consortium.

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Editors: Dr. Pawelczyk can be reached at (814) 865-3453 or jap18@psu.edu. This article was written by Karen Zitomer from the Penn State Office of Public Information; she can be reached at (814) 865-7517 or kzitomer@psu.edu.