Alumnus astronaut chats with Institute

Gregory Reid Wiseman discusses his life at RPI and career paths while orbiting the earth

Last Friday, a special guest video chatted with students and alumni at the Experimental Music and Performing Arts Center. That guest was not only an RPI alumni but also more than 200 miles above the earth. Gregory Reid Wiseman ’97 is an astronaut currently on the International Space Station and graciously donated his time in order to answer questions from the RPI community.

Prior to Wiseman’s call, President Shirley Ann Jackson gave a speech to the audience about the wide influence of alumni on the world, from astronauts to early email developments, RPI graduates have had a huge handprint on the world. Jackson stressed Wiseman’s role, shaping the world through beautiful photography that Wiseman shares online through Twitter, giving us earthlings a fresh perspective on our planet.

After Jackson delivered her opening, RPI faculty member Cynthia Collins gave a talk regarding her groundbreaking research that was conducted on the ISS. Collins, a professor of biochemical engineering, showed the assembly her new research in bacterial biofilms outside of Earth’s gravity, and how this could have an effect on space flights and our understanding of space travel.

Following Collins was the video call with Wiseman, which was a great main attraction. For the talk, Wiseman donned an RPI T-shirt and hung up some RPI banners inside the makeshift venue, tying one of the flags off to a very expensive–looking microscope. Chosen alumni were given the opportunity to field questions to Wiseman, asking him a variety of questions from life on the ISS to his experience at RPI. Wiseman also provided some information regarding his recent spacewalk, reflecting how nervous he was and how his nerves melted away when he was actually outside the ship and floating in a spacesuit staring at the earth. He even snagged a selfie, showing himself with our planet in his visor’s reflection.

Although he’s talked about recently adjusting to life without gravity, Wiseman will be returning to our world in November and plans to take a Disney cruise with family. The talk was a cool, once–in–a–lifetime experience, and now with two ISS astronauts having graduated from RPI, we have a lot to be proud of here at home.