Don Frazier: Chemist
I am a chemist. I work with companies to develop the cutting-edge technologies NASA needs for its missions. Many of these innovations benefit society too.
One exciting technology I helped create is an energy source that can be printed on paper using special ink. NASA can use this energy-efficient light on space missions or even to power space vehicles. Tiny molecules printed within the ink work as semiconductors, or materials that allow energy to be transferred through them. These devices are lightweight, very affordable, and generate little heat. Because all the energy is stored in the ink, the light source can be printed on normal paper, opening up all sorts of new possibilities: providing light on space missions, energy for solar cells to power entire vehicles, or even light for your home!
The challenge of discovering new things is the most exciting part of my job. I get to advise NASA about which technologies might be the most helpful for the space program. I also work with private companies to help bring unique technologies to NASA.
I was curious about how things around me worked from an early age. I grew up in a neighborhood full of distracting influences. Because I wanted to distance myself from these influences and be successful in life, I joined the Army and worked as a meteorological observer. That experience deepened my interest in science and discovery.
When I left the military, I earned advanced degrees in physical chemistry. I taught chemistry at the university level and worked in private industry as a research chemist before joining NASA. I came to NASA because sending humans into space and taking on challenges that had never been solved before intrigued me and fed my passion for discovery.
At NASA, I have worked as a research chemist, as the Chief Scientist for Physical Chemistry, and as the mission scientist for the first United States Microgravity Laboratory Spacelab mission, which flew aboard the space shuttle in 1992. I'm now the Chief Scientist in the Engineering Technical Management Office, where I help manage the development and discovery of new technologies for NASA and society. Much of my work in chemistry at NASA has revolved around how different phases of materials, such as clouds or foams, interact.
Plenty of opportunities exist in materials and chemistry research leading to exciting breakthroughs in a range of technologies beneficial to NASA and the nation.
With NASA’s renewed focus on research and technology development, the future is bright! I look forward to helping NASA develop even more groundbreaking technologies to enhance the future for all of us. We need young people who are interested in math, science, and engineering to help us with new and exciting space missions. It will be a thrilling journey!