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Alumna Soars Into Honorary Doctorate

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Honored During Commencement 2008

Alumna Traci Caldwell

Tracy Caldwell

She was a rising star as an undergraduate at Cal State Fullerton and then reached for the stars as a NASA astronaut.

Cal State Fullerton and the California State University system will recognize this high-flying alumna with an honorary doctorate of science at the university's Saturday, May 17, commencement ceremonies.

On campus, Caldwell earned recognition for service with the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and won a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Award. She also was named a Big West Scholar Athlete as a sprinter and long jumper.

During her undergraduate studies, she designed, constructed and implemented electronics and hardware associated with laser-ionization/time-of-flight mass spectrometer and was mentored by John A. Olmsted, emeritus professor of chemistry and biochemistry. She became a friend of Sue Fisher, campus radiation officer. Both were in Cape Canaveral when Caldwell saw her dream come true as a mission specialist on the August 2007 flight of the space shuttle Endeavor.

Caldwell, who graduated with a bachelor of science in chemistry in 1993, went on to earn a doctorate in physical chemistry from UC Davis in 1997. That same year, Caldwell received the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Postdoctoral Fellowship in Environmental Science to study atmospheric chemistry.

She joined NASA in June 1998 and became America's youngest astronaut and the first astronaut selected who was born after the first moon landing. She has served in a number of capacities prior to her flight mission. Among them, she participated in the testing and integration of Russian hardware and software products developed for the International Space Station, was crew support astronaut for the Expedition V flight to the ISS in 2002 and a spacecraft communicator inside Mission Control.

A member of Sigma Xi Research Society and the American Chemical Society, Caldwell has presented and had published numerous papers on her research in environmental science and chemistry.

Caldwell has been honored twice before by her alma mater: she received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2001 and was a featured speaker at the university's 40th anniversary celebration. On that occasion, Sen. John Glenn sent a letter to Caldwell, describing her as "a great role model for young men and women everywhere."

In a 2002 interview, Caldwell said: "I always tell kids three things: Dream big, study hard and always follow your heart."

Media Contacts:
Paula Selleck, Public Affairs
Pamela McLaren, Public Affairs, 657-278-4852 or