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05-12-2002

Nasa Chief Scientist Kathie L. Olsen Awarded Clarkson University Honorary Degree

Kathie L. Olsen, President Bush's nominee for the associate director of the Office of Science and Technology in the Executive Office of the President, received an honorary doctor of science degree at Clarkson University's 109th Commencement in Potsdam, N.Y., on Sunday, May 12.

The degree was awarded "for her contributions in behavioral science, education and service to the public, and for her intellectual leadership as chief scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration."

Olsen told the graduates to explore every option presented to them and take advantage of every opportunity. "When I was in high school, I was not becoming a scientist - because I hated it. And yet in college … I took a class from a professor in biology … and I became a biologist."

Olsen gave her own career experience as an example of the bright future awaiting the graduates. "In the next ten to fifteen years you'll be getting a lot of opportunities. What you really need to do is reach out for them. I did not think I was going to be a scientist. And now I'm the chief scientist of NASA."

Prior to joining NASA in May 1999, Olsen served as the senior staff associate for the Science and Technology Centers in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Integrative Activities. From February 1996 until November 1997, she served as Brookings Institute legislative fellow and then as an NSF detail in the office of Senator Conrad Burns of Montana. Among her responsibilities were NASA's authorization and appropriation bills and other issues pertaining to space transportation. Previously she had served for two years as acting director for the Division of Integrative Biology and Neuroscience at the NSF, where she has worked and held numerous other science-related positions dating back to 1984.

Olsen received her B.S. with honors from Chatham College, Pittsburgh, Pa., majoring in both biology and psychology and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the University of California, Irvine. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neuroscience at Children's Hospital of Harvard Medical School. Olsen was an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at SUNY Stony Brook. Her research on neural and genetic mechanisms underlying development and expression of behavior was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Her many awards include the National Science Foundation Director's Superior Accomplishment Award, the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society's award, and the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Award for outstanding contributions in research and education. In May 2000, she received the Barnard Medal of Distinction, Barnard College's most significant recognition of individuals for demonstrated excellence in conduct of their lives and careers. She received NASA's Outstanding Leadership Medal in June 2001.

Clarkson University, located in Potsdam, New York, is an independent technological university with a reputation for developing innovative leaders in technology-based fields. Its academically rigorous, collaborative culture involves 2,600 undergraduates and 350 graduate students in hands-on team projects, multidisciplinary research, and real-world challenges. Many faculty members achieve international recognition for their scholarship and research, and teaching is a priority at every level. For more information, visit http://www.clarkson.edu.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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