ASU hires former NASA space walker who climbed Mount Everest

ASU hired Scott Parazynski, a former NASA space walker who also climbed Mt. Everest, as its first University Explorer.

Parazynski said his appointment will allow him to share many experiences and perspectives with students that he has gained in his many different achievements.

“The most important thing I can share with students is that great things in life are not ever going to be handed to you,” Parazynski said. “You have to really fight for them, to really be tenacious."

University Provost Robert Page, who facilitated Parazynski’s hiring process, said he was happy to have Parazynski on staff.

“He’s an MD; he’s an astronaut; he’s climbed Mount Everest," Page said. "He has background in extreme-environment medicine, as well as being, fundamentally, an explorer.”

As ASU's first official University Explorer, Parazynski will run a laboratory and give guest lectures. Page said his appointment will benefit the ASU community immensely.

“He brings connections for us to medical research initiatives here in the Valley,” Page said. “We see him connecting with many of our medical partners. His connections with NASA, being an astronaut, bring us additional capability of building connections for our School of Earth and Space Exploration and for engineering, with projects that involve space initiatives.”

However, Page said the characteristic that most qualified Parazynski for his recent appointment as University Explorer was his reputation as an “inventor and an innovator.”

“He has an entrepreneurial spirit that is characteristic of this institution,” Page said.

Parazynski has appointments at the School of Earth and Space Exploration and at the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and he is expected to give occasional guest lectures in a number of classrooms this year.

ASU students will also be able to work with and learn from him in his laboratory.

Marco Santello, the director of ASU’s School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, said he thinks teaching at ASU will be as great an opportunity for Parazynski as it is for University students.

He said Parazynski’s experience and “multi-disciplinary perspective” will enable him to give students a well-rounded education and expose them to unique perspectives, and Parazynski will have a great time doing so.

“He’s very excited to be in an academic setting,” Santello said. “It is a different kind of challenge from what he has done so far.”

Parazynski said he looks forward to teaching ASU students and sharing his experiences with them.

His seven career space walks will likely be a popular topic of conversation with students hoping to follow in his footsteps and become astronauts.

“It’s the coolest job in the universe,” he said of being a space walker. “To get a chance to go outside the shuttle and the space station, and be outside with just a thin layer of glass between you and the enormity of the universe — it’s just breathtakingly beautiful. But it’s a very serious, unforgiving environment out there, too.”

He said his experience climbing Everest was also incredible, and he had to try multiple times before making it to the summit.

“It didn’t come easily to me, quite honestly,” Parazynski said. “But it was incredibly rewarding as well. I think the fact that I didn’t summit my first time made it even more significant to me because the things we have to work at the hardest leave the most lasting impressions.”

Parazynski said hard work and perseverance are things he has come to value highly in his experience at a space walker, mountaineer and inventor, and he said they are among the most valuable lessons he will be teaching at ASU.

"You learn that lesson through experience, and it changes everything. One little piece of success begets the next, and doors open up for you as you keep pressing on... It’s not just having a dream or a vision of what you want to accomplish, but having the tenacity to make it come true.”

Reach the reporter at megannphillips@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @megannphillips

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