Pawelczyk Testifies before U.S. Senate Subcommittee

June 8, 2006

(University Park, Pa) — Dr. James Pawelczyk, associate professor of kinesiology at Penn State, testified before Congress yesterday regarding NASA’s budget and programs.

image of Dr. James Pawelczyk

Speaking before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Science and Space, Pawelcyzk expressed concern over reductions in funding by NASA for life science research. According to Pawelczyk, deep cuts in funding for biological and physical research at NASA have resulted in “the cancellation of virtually all research equipment for the International Space Station that supports animals and plants” as well as reductions in funding for research grants.

“Current reductions in biological research funding appear sorely at odds with [the President’s goal to return humans to the moon and Mars],” Pawelczyk testified. Not enough is known, he explained, about musculoskeletal deconditioning among astronauts during long-term space flight. Preliminary estimates indicate that flight crews making a 30-month trip to Mars could face dramatic loss of bone mineral, exercise capacity and leg muscle strength. Pawelczyk urged the subcommittee to add funding to NASA’s budget that would allow it to explore these risks in greater depth and to develop plans to increase research aboard the International Space Station.

Pawelczyk, a member of the faculty since 1995, is also Penn State’s “resident astronaut.” He served as a payload specialist for NASA’s Neurolab (STS-90) mission aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1998, during which he logged 16 days and 6.4 million miles in space and circled the earth 256 times while conducting experiments that addressed changes in the development of the nervous system, balance, blood pressure regulation, sleep and control movement during space flight.

Pawelczyk has received grant funding and pre- and post-doctoral training awards from NASA, the National Institutes of Health and other federal and state government agencies in support of his research. He also has received the NASA Spaceflight Medal and a New Investigator award from NASA’s Life Sciences Division.

In 2002, Pawelczyk was appointed to the Research Maximization and Prioritization Task Force (ReMAP), a blue-ribbon panel established to advise the NASA on how to best maximize the scientific returns of many of its research programs, including the ISS. REMAP reviewed the research productivity and priorities of the entire scientific, technological and commercial portfolio of NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research and made recommendations on how to best achieve its research goals within the federal budget. More recently he has served on review panels chartered by the National Academy of Sciences to review biological risks to astronauts and research plans for the International Space Station.

Pawelczyk earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology from the University of Rochester, a master’s degree in physiology from Penn State and a Ph.D. in biology (physiology) from the University of North Texas. He also completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

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