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Release: April 16, 2001

Astronaut-professor to speak at UI about 1998 Columbia mission

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A Pennsylvania State University professor, who spent 16 days in space as part of a 1998 space shuttle mission, will speak about his experience at the University of Iowa Thursday, April 19. The presentation by James A. Pawelczyk begins at 3:30 p.m. in the Medical Alumni Auditorium, E331 General Hospital.

Pawelczyk’s presentation, "From Classrooms to Cosmos: An Overview of the Neurolab Mission," is the 9th annual Louis E. Alley Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the department of exercise science in the UI College of Liberal Arts.

In 1995, the same year he joined the faculty of the Noll Physiological Research Center at Penn State, Pawelczyk was selected as a payload specialist for the Neurolab space shuttle mission ( In April and May of 1998, he logged 16 days and 6.4 million miles in space onboard Space Shuttle Columbia, circling the earth 256 times and conducting neuroscience experiments that addressed changes in the development of the nervous system, balance, blood pressure regulation, sleep and control of movement during spaceflight.

Before he was tapped by NASA for the flight, Pawelczyk had spent several years conducting research on blood pressure regulation. Problems with regulation of blood pressure lead to orthostatic intolerance -- an inability to maintain adequate blood flow to the brain. This condition, which affects as many as 500,000 Americans, is routinely observed following spaceflight.

In addition to his UI lecture, while he is in town Pawelczyk will speak to some local elementary school students. He is scheduled to visit Hoover Elementary in Iowa City at 1 p.m. April 19.

The Louis E. Alley Memorial Lecture was established in 1992 in honor of Alley, who was a professor in the UI department of physical education, the predecessor to the department of exercise science, from 1950-1983. He served as department chair from 1960-1978. He was noted for his innovations in graduate education, and his leadership set the groundwork for the current nature of the academic programs in exercise science.