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Shuttle Astronaut to Plant ‘Space Sod’ on Campus

Pennsylvania College of Technology will have its own (organic) version of “Astroturf” next month when Dr. James A. Pawelczyk, a payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Columbia’s spring 1998 mission, plants a patch of grass grown from seed that accompanied him on the 16-day, 6.4-million-mile journey through space.

Dr. Pawelczyk, who is an assistant professor of physiology and kinesiology at The Pennsylvania State University’s Noll Physiological Research Center, will visit Penn College on Tuesday, Oct. 3.

The grass-planting ceremony, scheduled for 3:45 p.m. in front of the Breuder Advanced Technology & Health Sciences Center, and a lecture/video presentation, set for 7 p.m. in the Klump Academic Center Auditorium, are free and open to the public. Dr. Pawelczyk will answer audience questions and be available for autographs after his presentation at the Academic Center.

During the Space Shuttle’s Neurolab mission, which circled the earth 256 times, Dr. Pawelczyk conducted neuroscience experiments on changes in the development of the nervous system, balance, blood-pressure regulation, sleep and control movement during spaceflight.

His research focuses on the dynamic regulation of blood pressure and how disuse atrophy affects blood-pressure regulation. Problems with moment-to-moment regulation of blood pressure lead to orthostatic intolerance, an inability to maintain adequate blood flow to the brain that affects as many as 500,000 Americans.

The condition is routinely observed during spaceflight, which Dr. Pawelczyk has studied for the past six years as a NASA-funded investigator.

During his visit to Penn College, Dr. Pawelczyk also will tour the main campus and the College’s Lumley Aviation Center at the Williamsport Regional Airport.

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