On May 10, Chapman University Student Research Day will feature a keynote address by Mike Paul Hughes, a NASA engineer who has spent the “last two decades [working] in the areas of guidance, navigation and control systems for spacecraft and entry systems.” Hughes’ work is well regarded among his peers, so much so that he “received NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal for leading the attitude determination and control team for NASA’s comet-busting Deep Impact mission in 2005.” As a NASA engineer, Hughes has a passion for academic pursuits widely and especially for math and physics. Surprisingly, he’s equally passionate about creative pursuits.

In addition to his work as an engineer, Mike Paul Hughes is an accomplished musician, composer, and producer. Moreover, Hughes’s aerospace career has lead to many unexpected opportunities in the entertainment industry. “I was asked by Red Bull to be an ambassador for their Hacking Creativity project, and I produced a music video for them and presented it at their creative conference, Glimpses. Just recently, Hughes worked “as the technical and script advisor for a new French TV series called STRATUM, which features a dramatic human return from space.” He also hosted a television pilot entitled Hollywood in Space, which explains sci-fi technology with the help of physics-minded aerospace engineers.

Through his work in both research and creative activity, Hughes has learned many valuable lessons regarding critical thinking. For example, he says, “the phrase ‘two heads are better than one’ reminds us to share some of our independent thinking with others, or divide up the task into parts assigned to specialists, to work in teams. We have to do this for success in aerospace, and everywhere. But failure finds the cracks between groups and teams, in the places where there is no document and has never been a failure before.” Through his many creative and scholarly interests and experiences, Hughes has come to believe that  “independent, creative, intellectual challenge leads to mission success” and that “groupthink leads to failure.”

Mike Paul Hughes will deliver his keynote address on Wednesday, May 10th, at 12:00pm during this semester’s Chapman University Research Day. All presenters and mentors are invited to this luncheon, and others are welcome as space allows and with an rsvp. Don’t miss this unique event that celebrates the breadth and depth of scholarly research and creative activity conducted by Chapman University undergraduate and graduate students.

Interested in scholarly research and creative activity? Visit OURCA’s website to find out about all of our available funding opportunities.