University launches effort to renew connections with NASA

NASA officials Kam Lulla and Ronald Lee talk with TWU Special Collections Director Kimberly Johnson
NASA officials Kam Lulla and Ronald Lee talk with TWU Special Collections Director Kimberly Johnson during a tour of “The Vault” in the Blagg-Huey Library. The Vault houses several NASA-related archives, including the astronaut bone density research of Pauline Beery Mack and collections of the Mercury 13, the first 13 women who were part of an experimental program to train women for space in the early 1960s.


Texas Woman’s University took a step forward in rekindling its relationship with NASA when two space agency officials visited the university’s Denton campus May 22.

Kamlesh P. Lulla, Ph.D., director of NASA - Johnson Space Center’s University Research, Collaboration and Partnership Office, and his deputy, Ronald B. Lee, met with TWU’s executive leadership and faculty members during a day-long visit. The meetings highlighted NASA’s past connections with the university and allowed TWU officials to share ideas for future involvement in research, and student and faculty involvement with the space agency.

“Our strategic partnership could include joint research, joint technology and joint proposals,” Lulla said. “We are looking for universities to help us identify emerging capabilities for extended space missions, not only in technology development but also in building our workforce.”

The Johnson Space Center in Houston supports human space flight and exploration. TWU’s strategic focus on human health and performance aligns with this mission. During this visit, Texas Woman’s showcased facilities and faculty expertise in the College of Health Sciences and the College of Arts and Sciences. Areas of interest included: exercise physiology, flavor chemistry, sensory protocols, psychological impacts on astronauts and their families, cybersecurity, cell and molecular physiology, and chemical processes for cleaning textiles used by astronauts on extended space missions. Student internships and teacher education programs also were discussed.

Texas Woman’s Chancellor Carine M. Feyten said, “When people think of NASA they think engineers. But, nutrition and food science, textiles, psychology, kinesiology and health sciences will also play critical roles in the success of deep space missions. I know TWU can contribute in essential ways to help NASA in future missions.”

Texas Woman’s has a long history of working with NASA, beginning with faculty research director Pauline Beery Mack, Ph.D. For eight years, Mack conducted bone density research on the space agency’s earliest astronauts, starting in 1962 – just four years after the founding of NASA.

Several of the university’s alumni also have links to NASA, including:

  • Betty Alford, Ph.D. (B.S. '54, home economics; M.A. '56, Ph.D. '65, nutrition), who served as a primary research assistant to Mack and whose doctoral research in nutrition was sponsored by NASA.
  • Anngienetta Johnson, Ph.D. (B.S. '71, math), who worked for NASA for 40 years, retiring in 2009 as the senior advisor for safety and mission assurance.
  • Millie Hughes Fulford (Ph.D. '72, biochemistry), who was the first woman civilian scientist in space when she flew aboard Spacelab in 1991.
  • Emma Zemler (B.S. '14 math), who is a robotics engineer for NASA - Johnson Space Center.

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Page last updated 4:15 PM, June 14, 2022