Anna Leahy, Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (OURCA) first met Ken Phillips when she was waiting for the space shuttle
to wend its way through the streets of Los Angeles to its permanent home at the California Science Center. Phillips is Curator for Aerospace Science there, and bringing a space shuttle back to the region in which they all were built was his idea.


Ken Phillips

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Phillips will visit Chapman University for Student Research Day, hosted by OURCA. He will give the keynote lecture during the lunch for student presenters and faculty mentors. He’ll share his enthusiasm for learning and how he pursued his interests that ultimately and somewhat unexpectedly led to his current role as a space shuttle’s caretaker.

Phillips earned his Ph.D. in environmental engineering at Johns Hopkins University and has been at the California Science Center since 1990. He teaches a first-year seminar about on the space shuttle and the public understanding of science at USC and an inquiry-based course on space exploration for high-school seniors at the New Village Girls’ Academy. He volunteers by building houses in rural Mexico as well.

When Leahy talked with him a few years ago for Lofty Ambitions blog, which she co-writes with Digital Humanities and Sciences Librarian Douglas Dechow, Phillips said that the most-asked question about space travel is how astronauts go to the bathroom. So he made sure that the potty has its own display in the shuttle exhibit. The galley and one of the orbiter’s fuel cells also get special attention at the California Science Center.

itself is now displayed horizontally. Phillips made sure that visitors can walk directly under the orbiter and get an up-close look at its belly and the complex arrangement of the thermal tiles that protected it during reentry.

Eventually, Phillips and the California Science Center want
to be displayed vertically with its rocket boosters and external fuel tank. The orbiter will appear as if ready for launch, and platforms at different levels will allow visitors to view it up close from tail to nose.

Chapman University Student Research Day features a morning poster session featuring the sciences and an afternoon poster session featuring the arts, education, humanities, and social sciences. Both sessions are in the Bush Conference Center (Beckman 404) and are open to the public. Refreshments are provided.

If you’d like to keep up with OURCA’s events and programs, check it out on Facebook at
. For more information, contact