Press Release

Rice University President Receives NASA Public Service Medal

By SpaceRef Editor
June 8, 2004
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In recognition of his outstanding leadership in promoting research collaboration between Rice University and NASA, Malcolm Gillis, President of Rice University, was awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal.

The Public Service Medal is one of the highest honors the agency awards to non-government employees. It was conferred by Johnson Space Center Director Jefferson D. Howell Jr. in a ceremony earlier today.

“Dr. Gillis is most deserving of this recognition,” said Howell. “His dedication and commitment in creating opportunities that allow us to share knowledge, skill and capability will help Houston, and this country, prepare for an exciting future. The expertise we are gaining from our collaborations will be vital as we begin the journey that will take us back to the Moon, and ultimately to Mars and beyond.”

During Gillis’s presidency, from 1993 to June 2004, Rice has played an important role in space science, geology, biology, engineering and computer sciences.

“I am deeply honored by this award,” President Gillis said. “Rice’s collaborations with NASA are among the most gratifying of my tenure here, and I”m proud of my small part in bringing them about. NASA and Rice are making significant advances in public health, education, the sciences and engineering, and many more are on the horizon.”

In 1998, Gillis, who holds a doctorate in economics, signed a statement of collaboration with NASA’s Administrator to enhance collaborations in advanced nanotechnology
materials and applications leading to joint research, publications and increased capability to commercialize the production of nanotubes. These efforts were enhanced with last year’s award of a 5-year, $15-million grant for the Texas Institute for Intelligent Bio-Nano Material and Structure, which includes a significant research component at Rice.

In 1996, Rice became a NASA Specialized Center for Research and Training in Gravitational Biology, including outstanding collaborations with JSC biotechnology and cell
scientists. Rice is also a member of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, which supports NASA’s research needs for understanding the effects of microgravity on living systems.

Rice faculty in engineering and linguistics are working closely with JSC scientists to develop Robonaut, a humanized robot that can assist astronauts in space.

In the area of public outreach, Rice faculty are educating the public about the benefits of NASA’s research. These efforts involve several current and former astronauts who serve as adjunct faculty at Rice, as well as members of the Rice Space Institute, which is assisting the Houston Museum of Natural Science in bringing earth and space information to the public. Rice’s educational efforts also include hosting the International Space University in 1997.

Rice is also active in developing sound space policy. The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy brought international space leaders to Houston for the Space Policy Summit held in conjunction with the World Space Congress in 2002, and it sponsored a workshop on commercial space policy and development in 2003.

The Public Service Medal is among NASA’s most prestigious awards. It is approved by the administrator and presented to carefully selected individuals and groups of individuals, both government and non-government, who have made outstanding contributions to the agency’s mission.

For more information about NASA on the Internet, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.