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Thomas J. Goodwin, Ph.D.
July 30, 2014

[image-51]Dr. Thomas Goodwin is known for his research into human physiology at the cellular level. He has authored or co-authored more than 45 peer-reviewed articles, authored book chapters on three-dimensional (3D) biology and human physiology, has been awarded more than 20 U.S. patents, and earned more than 60 scientific technical and performance awards while at NASA. Yet Dr. Goodwin hopes his greatest accomplishment is yet to come.

“Quite possibly, I will not realize it when it happens,” Dr. Goodwin says, “for that kind of achievement is best left for others, or perhaps the future, to judge.”

Dr. Goodwin has been supporting the work at NASA’s Johnson Space Center since 1987 and is currently the manager of the Disease Modeling and Tissue Analogues Laboratory and lead scientist for the Oxidative Stress and Damage research discipline. He has bioengineered 3D human tissues that can serve as high-fidelity, superior research models for studies on the human physiology. He has demonstrated how altering microgravity environments and time-varying electromagnetic fields can positively and negatively impact human physiology at the cellular and genetic levels.

Some of his most exciting work was done from 1997 to 2005, when he was the chief scientist for the development of the Biotechnology Facility (BTF) for the International Space Station (ISS). The BTF was being designed to process high-throughput scientific samples on-orbit and thus render data faster and in greater quantities for the individual researcher. During those years, there was a critical need for the development of ultracold storage onboard the station.

“I had the privilege of helping to define the scientific performance requirements for cold storage, while working with truly superior folks in the Crew and Thermal Systems Division and the Space Station payloads office,” he says.

In a related project, while serving as NASA’s chief scientist for the cold systems, he was involved in flying the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) and then the General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER). Both of these cold storage systems are now operational on the ISS and/or Dragon SpaceX.

“Seeing a need, responding to it, and getting that response operational in space—that is exciting,” he explained. “It’s something in which we can all take great pride and satisfaction.”

During much of Dr. Goodwin’s childhood, his father was in the Air Force, stationed in Europe. Being immersed in it, he was fascinated with all things military, especially aircraft and space. He followed every advance America made in space—the Bell X-1 and X-15 trials, Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.

“While my experiences as the son of an Air Force chief master sergeant dictated the context of my family world, my alter ego and the ‘friend’ who influenced the developing patterns of my life was a character from science fiction novels: scientist, inventor and all round good guy, Tom Swift Jr.

“He was the hero in a series of novels that featured science, invention, and technology. Tom Swift was hugely popular in the years I was growing up and targeted boys and their imaginations in the days when interactive devices were called ‘books.’ I remember many times pleading with my parents to take me to the post exchange (PX) to get the latest Tom Swift book.”

In addition to reading as a child, Dr. Goodwin constructed all manner of models—airplanes, ships, and spacecraft in plastic and wood, some even radio controlled. At one time, his room (as well as other parts of the house) was filled with replicas of everything from World War II aircraft to Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft.

“Assembling those models engaged me, connecting aspects of my intellect with all my senses, challenging me, and giving me an appreciation for independent thinking and problem solving,” explains Dr. Goodwin. “They opened the door to creative thought and imagination.”

Dr. Goodwin remembers watching the Moon landing in July 1969 and thinking to himself, “We'll be living there soon.”

The potential of space travel and the presence of science were foremost in his life and still are. Tempered by time and experience, however, he now realizes: “We'll be living there someday.”

His advice for future scientists? A simple list:

  • Study and work hard.
  • Expect nothing for free.
  • Maintain your integrity.
  • Never become blinded by your personal accolades.
  • Try to find something positive in every experiment and know that life's greatest disappointments often carry the most important lessons.
  • Never, ever, let anyone take away your dreams.

Regarding his own future, Dr. Goodwin looks forward to new projects at NASA. He and some colleagues successfully competed for a NASA Research Announcement grant for a flight experiment that, for the first time, will look at the role of oxidative stress and damage and its association in space flight syndromes by assessing exploration atmospheres proposed for long-duration missions. These studies may provide essential data in safeguarding our astronauts on deep-space missions.

“Past that, I'm forever interested in where the science leads me,” he says.

In support of his NASA position, Dr. Goodwin holds adjunct positions at the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston, Texas, Dept. of Surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and at the University of Houston, Dept. of Health and Human Performance. He is an adjunct scientist at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and the Southwest National Primate Research Center, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. He is also a subject matter panel expert in “Omics Applications” for the European Society of Translational Medicine.

Dr. Goodwin received his Ph.D. in physiology and bioengineering science from the Union Institute and University. He also holds an M.A. in neuroscience from the University of Houston and a B.A. in biology from St. Mary’s University.

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Thomas J. Goodwin
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Page Last Updated: August 6th, 2014
Page Editor: Lee Obringer