Meet: Melvin Buderer
JSC Payload Project Scientist
What I do:
I am Payload Project Scientist at the NASA Johnson Space Center. My
group is responsible for payload development of experiments involving
human subjects primarily for Spacelab missions. Our work starts even before
an experiment is proposed: we advise NASA Headquarters on the stucture
of the payload so that NASA can release a NASA Research Announcement (NRA)
to investigators wishing to propose experiments for space.
When the proposals are selected, my group performs the Engineering Cost
and Management (ECM) assessment to determine the cost of the engineering
needed to modify the experiment for space flight. We define the design
and operation of the experiment for the Shuttle environment, help the
investigators collect their data, and obtain the final science reports
for each experiment.
My Career Journey
Since I was about 10 years old, I had always wanted to work in the space
program. While the manned space program wasn't a reality at that time,
there were several science fiction television shows that spurred my interest
in space. I grew up with the manned space program which further interested
me. I started at NASA right after finishing up my Ph.D. at the University
of California at Berkeley in 1970.
I had applied for post-doctoral positions at Ames Research Center in
California, but one day was talking to an old classmate, Chuck Sawin,
who had finished his Ph.D. at Berkeley the prior year. Dr. Sawin convinced
me to come to Houston to the NASA Johnson Space Center. Dr. Sawin was
supporting the manned space flight program at Boeing. I was convinced,
and obtained a post-doctoral position with the National Research Council.
My first work was on Apollo missions 14 through 17, doing cardiac output
testing on the Apollo astronauts.
I later worked in the Apollo Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) and Skylab programs.
When my post-doctoral position was complete after two years, I transferred
over to Technology Incorporated (what is now Krug) and worked for them
for 7 years on a contract they had with NASA. Later I worked for MATSCO
for 5 years, when MATSCO won the contract that Technology Incorporated
had had with NASA. Finally I joined NASA in 1984.
Likes/Dislikes about career
It can take a long time to develop a payload, and can sometimes be very
frustrating, but it is very gratifying to watch the investigators get
their data. I was fortunate to participate in the first Spacelab (SL-1)
in the early 80's, and am participating in the last Spacelab (Neurolab)
in the late 90's. I've had a 40 year period of really doing what I wanted
to do, and I don't think many people can say that!
Preparation for Career
I began my college career as a chemistry major but switched after the
first year. I still was interested in working in the space program, and
had come across physiology in the course catalog. I also had a friend
who was a physiology major, and when hearing about the course of study,
I switched my major. I obtained my undergraduate degree in physiology,
then went on to pursue my Ph.D. in physiology.
While at school, I was fortunate to work with an early university-related
NASA researcher doing high altitude physiology research on primates. I
was actually able to participate in the experimentation done aboard the
Biosatellite 3 mission.
Find what you like to do, then determine a field of study that will
help you achieve that goal. Beyond that, students with an interest in
space life sciences should go on to obtain their Ph.D. or M.D. degrees.
Historically, the other degrees don't get you as far.