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Baldwin Wallace track star 'races' to NASA Johnson Space Center

When she was growing up, Liz (Redd) Goetchius '06 doesn't remember ever wanting to be an astronaut. Even as she got older, she never imagined herself working at NASA.

photo of BW alum Liz GoetchiusNow in her 12th year as a scientist at the NASA Johnson Space Center, Goetchius plays an integral role in supporting the nation's astronauts from Earth. Her journey to Houston began with an interest sparked during her years at BW.

From Track to Teaching

A stellar athlete, she was a four-year letterwinner on BW's track and field team. She capped off her career with four OAC titles during her senior outdoor season. To this day, there are still two school records with her maiden name on them - the indoor 4x200-meter relay and the indoor sprint medley relay.

She transformed her passion for working with people and building healthy lifestyles into a community health promotion and physical education double major. As an undergrad, she envisioned herself teaching and coaching at the high school and college levels, hopefully with opportunities to work with underserved communities and students with disabilities.

After graduation, she worked as a teacher and a varsity coach at a high school in Arizona. She then set her sights on teaching and coaching at the college level, which required an advanced degree.

"The exercise physiology and kinesiology courses at BW piqued my interests in that field. When it was time to explore a master's program, I focused my search on that area," she said.

At Baylor University, Goetchius shifted her career goals from teaching and coaching to research. While studying as a grad student in Waco, Texas, she found herself in the "right place at the right time" when she met an exercise physiologist from the Air Force. He directed her to internship opportunities at NASA.

Climbing the Ladder at NASA

photo of BW alum Liz Goetchius in space suitAs a research intern in exercise physiology and countermeasures, Goetchius assisted lab members with data collection and candidate testing. She eventually went from intern to full-time employee.

She spent 11 years as an exercise scientist in NASA's Human Performance, Physiology, Protection and Operations Laboratory with a sole focus on exercise in space. Last April, she stepped into a new role in Research Operations and Integration as an experiment support scientist.

Now, Goetchius finds herself supporting human life space research projects on the International Space Station and working with various research teams to help scientists define, develop and implement their experiments in space.

"The best part of my job is that I am assigned to several different experiments from many different facets of life science - exercise, ocular health, monitoring vegetable growth and crew protection, to name a few," she noted. "It's fascinating to learn about so many different experiments and to serve as a liaison between the scientist and NASA to ensure the science is completed to the highest standards."

Paying it Forward

With a successful NASA career, Goetchius offers advice to the next generation, especially students interested in pursuing STEM areas.

"Gain hands-on experience throughout your educational journey - in areas you love and in things you have never done before," Goetchius said. "Don't be afraid to try something you've never done before because it may turn into a true passion. I never imagined working for NASA, and now I'm a liaison for research on the International Space Station."

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