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Out-of-this-World Speakers Highlight UCR Event

Out-of-this-World Speakers Highlight UCR Engineering Event

An astronaut and a planetary scientist from NASA are scheduled to speak at Bourns Space Science and Engineering Day on April 12.

(April 1, 2008)

Astronaut Benjamin Alvin Drew, Jr., will be one of the keynote speakers for Bourns Space Science and Engineering Day held on the UCR campus.Enlarge

Astronaut Benjamin Alvin Drew, Jr., will be one of the keynote speakers for Bourns Space Science and Engineering Day held on the UCR campus.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Getting up close and personal with experts on outer space will be an added bonus for participants in Bourns Space Science and Engineering Day on Saturday, April 12 at 12 noon on the UC Riverside campus. NASA is sending astronaut Benjamin Alvin Drew, Jr., and planetary scientist Jennifer Heldmann to provide students with a real life glimpse of planets and space travel.

Drew, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force who has 3,300 hours flying time in over 30 types of aircraft, made his first space flight in August of 2007 in the Space Shuttle Endeavour. His 12-day mission on Endeavour included transporting equipment to and from the International Space Station. The roundtrip mission consisted of 5.3 million miles in space.

Heldmann, who holds a Ph.D. in planetary science, is a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center. There, she spends a great deal of her time analyzing spacecraft data to gain a better understanding of Mars. She also travels to remote regions on Earth that have similarities to areas of Mars. The Moon serves as another area of extensive study for Heldmann.

Both will kick off the hands-on event as co-keynote speakers and will be able to meet with the students attending in the afternoon.

“What better way to stir the interest of young people than provide them with experts who have firsthand knowledge of exciting careers in science and engineering?” said Sharon Walker, assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering. “Meeting a real life astronaut, such as Drew and a scientist like Heldmann whose interest in space was sparked in the third grade, will definitely have an impact on these students.”

Walker was recently named one of the top 10 female leaders in San Bernardino and Riverside counties by the Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council (GSSGC). Walker made the list of 2008 Women of Distinction in the category of Achievement in Science, Technology, Science and Math.

Bourns Space Science and Engineering Day, which serves as a national model for NASA, received assistance from Angela Phillips Diaz, a NASA executive serving as assistant to the UCR chancellor on educational outreach in securing Drew and Heldmann.

The free hands-on space science event, co-sponsored with the Society of Women Engineers, will allow participants a chance to explore robotics, create their own unique star constellations in the planetarium, interact with the Mars rover, build a comet and make a crater.

Although the event is full, names can be added to the waiting list by contacting or by calling Jun Wang (951) 827-2708.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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