Women in Technology Hall of Fame

Patricia Cowings

Patricia Cowings

Research Psychologist, Human Systems Integrations Division, NASA Ames Research Center

Inducted in 2009

Patricia Cowings has held several adjunct professorships at many universities, and her work is on permanent display in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington.

She engages in community outreach and mentoring programs and has been featured in several K–12 textbooks on the accomplishments of women and African-Americans. She currently develops non-medical methods that help astronauts adapt faster to space-induced physiological changes at NASA Ames Research Center.

Her research resulted in the NASA patented Autogenic Feedback Training Exercise (AFTE). The AFTE method and system is used to train people to monitor and voluntarily control a variety of their physiological responses to reduce symptoms of motion sickness and environmental stress. Previously, Patricia excelled as a researcher at NASA, a space crew trainer, a professor in psychiatry at UCLA and a professor in medical and clinical psychology at Uniformed Services Industry.

Patricia continued to apply her space and aviation experience as the principal investigator of the Psychophysiological Research Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center, following the success of her key experiments at NASA.

After working on Spacelab Mission Development-3, a simulated space shuttle mission, her experiment to study how astronauts adapt to the weightlessness of space was selected to fly on the STS-51B and STS-51C shuttle flights in 1985. This triumph led Patricia to design an ambulatory instrument that made it easier to monitor the astronauts’ physiological responses in space. She began her career at NASA more than 30 years ago as the first black female scientist to be trained as an astronaut payload specialist.

She is the recipient of a variety of awards for her incredible and inspiring work, including the NASA Individual Achievement Award, the Black Engineer of the Year Award, the AMES Honor Award for Technology Development, the NASA Space Act Award for Invention and the National Women of Color Technology Award.