The recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award, which honors alumni whose exceptional achievements in business, education, research or public service have brought honor and distinction to the college, is Astronaut Christina Koch.
Koch is an NC State physics and electrical engineering alumna who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Since leaving campus, she has enjoyed a rich and varied science and engineering career. She has developed space-science instruments at Johns Hopkins University and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; served on firefighting, search-and-rescue and scientific teams in Antarctica; conducted scientific field work during multiple winters in Greenland; and served as station chief of the American Samoa Observatory.
In 2013, Koch was selected as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class. Her training included scientific and technical briefings, flight training, and intensive instruction in International Space Station systems. She completed astronaut candidate training in 2015 and is currently assigned to the International Space Station Crew Operations Branch. In this position, she is involved in crew conferences and IT-related issues on board the station.
Koch has come back to NC State’s campus several times over the past year, including serving as a speaker at the College of Sciences Women in STEM Dinner. At that event she said something that stuck with a lot of people: “If you’re faced with a decision and one thing scares you and one is pretty mundane, I think the path you should take is pretty clear.” Koch hasn’t chosen many mundane paths. She’s chosen to do things that interest her, inspire her and enrich her life.