California State University, Fullerton

A-Z Index

CSUF Home   »   INSIDE

As billows of smoke spread across Launch Pad 39A, Space Shuttle Endeavour climbs into the sky on mission STS-118 on 2007. Photo courtesy of NASA/Sandra Joseph, Tony Gray, Robert Murray

Foundation Built at Cal State Fullerton

Caldwell Dyson Knew She Needed to Become a Scientist to Make It to Space

March 30, 2010

By Russ L. Hudson

As she neared the end of high school, Tracy Caldwell knew what she wanted to do but wasn’t sure she could do it.

“I didn’t consider myself a scientist and was not particularly good at it,” she remembers. Inspired by Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher-astronaut, she “looked more into it and … I found out that astronauts came in two different flavors, mission specialists and pilots. Pilots were the military guys flying high-performance jets landing on carriers at night. Well, I didn’t see myself doing that, but mission specialists were scientists and engineers.”

With that in mind, she started laying the foundation, enrolling at Cal State Fullerton in 1987. From there:

Caldwell has been honored twice by her alma mater, at the 2001 Visions & Visionaries gala and here, in 1999, during the university’s 40th anniversary. She holds a framed letter presented to her by Sen. John Glenn, one of the first astronauts. In the letter, he called Caldwell Dyson “a great role model for young men and women everywhere.” Photo by Patrick O’Donnell

  • 1992: Received the Natural Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Award
  • 1993: Graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry; entered UC Davis as a doctoral student in chemistry
  • 1996: Received multiple graduate research awards
  • 1997: Received the Outstanding Doctoral Award in Chemistry and Camille and Henry Dreyfus Postdoctoral Fellowship in Environmental Science; earned doctorate in physical chemistry from UC Davis
  • 1998: Accepted by NASA into Astronaut Training Group 17, the first astronaut born after the first moon landing in 1969
  • 1999: Assigned to Astronaut Office International Space Station Operations Branch as part of the Russian Crusader group
  • 2000: Assigned to Prime Crew Support group for International Space Station Expedition 5
  • 2003: Assigned to Astronaut Shuttle Operations
  • 2005: Served as Lead Capsule Communicator for International Space Station Expedition 11
  • 2007: Initial space flight as mission specialist aboard the Endeavor on U.S. Shuttle Mission STS-118.
  • 2008: Honorary doctorate from Cal State Fullerton
  • 2009: Selected as Expedition 23 crewmember
  • April 2: Launches aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket for six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (See related story below)

Related Story:

Caldwell Dyson About to Launch

The Sky's No Limit

Back to Top