The North Texan, Volume 48, Number 3, Fall 1998 Page: 28
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UNT alum goes galactic to study effects of zero gravity
alk about distance education.
James Pawelczyk ('89 Ph.D.) spent a few hours in
April teaching university students about neuroscience from
150 miles up on the Space Shuttle Columbia, where he was
part of the STS-90 Neurolab crew studying the effects of
microgravity on the nervous system.
"This was the first time live interactive discussions from
space had been conducted with
college students, but it worked well
because this is the level at which
students start to get interested in
neuroscience," says Pawelczyk, who
was on leave from Pennsylvania State
University where he is an assistant
professor of kinesiology and physiology.
"We got good questions and generated
a lot of excitement."
Neil Armstrong's bouncing on the \ 1-
moon sparked Pawelczyk's love for
space. His adult research interests in
physiology permitted him to live out
his dream at age 37.
"Being a payload specialist, a space
scientist, melded my two greatest
interests," says Pawelczyk, who earned
Pawelczyk monitors a fellow crew member
in the Lower Body Negative Pressure device.
28 The North Texan
By Susan V. Lewis
a UNT degree after training at the UNT Health Science
Center. "A lot of my research with the space program focuses
on issues like how the body adapts to new environments."
Space is one of humanity's newest environments. The lack
of gravity affects the body in multiple ways, which kept the
seven-person crew busy with 26 research projects.
Even in their sleep, the astronauts conducted research,
completing a clinical trial of the sleep aid melatonin and
documenting sleep patterns. Pawelczyk found his own sleep
quite normal, despite being tethered down in a lightweight
sleeping bag and tucked into a darkened sleep station two-
thirds the size of a phone booth.
"It's really quite comfortable to sleep in space," he says.
"I was surprised, but I continued to roll over even though
there are no pressure points in microgravity. I also found I
wanted a pillow. The toughest part was getting reoriented
after rolling around all night and finding the door to get
out of the sleep station."
In addition to conducting the sleep study, Pawelczyk and
his crewmates used themselves as test subjects to examine
how the nervous system controls blood pressure and how the
brain coordinates sensory-motor responses in microgravity.
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University of North Texas. The North Texan, Volume 48, Number 3, Fall 1998, periodical, Autumn 1998; Denton, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc119150/m1/28/?q=pawelczyk: accessed May 14, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting University Relations, Communications & Marketing department for UNT.