Dr. Patricia S. Cowings
(b. 1948)

Doesn't matter where you are from or what you look like. Doesn't matter if you're poor. A human being can learn and can achieve whatever they set out to do (or come near to it). I've spent my life studying human potential—and stretching my own.

Don't give up. No matter how bad or scary it gets. Not even when you ask yourself "What am I doing here?"
—Dr. Patricia S. Cowings

Dr. Patricia S. Cowings is the Director of Pyschophysiological Research at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett's Field, California. With a career spanning nearly three decades with NASA, Dr. Cowings was the first American woman selected to be an astronaut way back, as she states, "before Sally Ride's day and they didn't even have a uniform for me."

As a research psychologist and principal investigator, her research has focused on the psychological and biological problems experienced by astronauts as they adapt to a gravity environment different from that of Earth. Dr. Cowings's research has resulted in the development of a training program called Autogenic Feedback Training Exercise (AFTE), which enables astronauts to cope with motion sickness. The program is tailored to individual needs and provides an effective method of psychologically dealing with and controlling such processes as the heart rate, heart beat, and blood pressure during space flight. It involves a combination of training and biofeedback, which allows astronauts to control up to 20 physiological functions related to motion sickness.

Dr. Cowings believes in the learning capabilities of human beings and continues her research on using the mind to control bodily responses in order to adapt suitably to an unfamiliar environment. Her determination has been the key to her personal and scientific achievements, although she says that "not being taken seriously is one of the obstacles I had to overcome to get where I am right now. I was 23 when I earned my doctorate and most of my associates would not treat me like a scientist. But youth and inexperience, that's something you outgrow. Still I have always been (and will always be) a black woman and I still find that people see the outside without seeing the scientist inside."
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Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern (Journal of African Civilizations; Vol. 5, No. 1-2), Ivan Van Sertima (ed.). Transaction Publishers, 1990.
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