Georgia Tech Graduate and Former Astronaut Jan Davis Recognized as Top NASA Executive

Georgia Tech Graduate Jan Davis is a veteran of three trips into space and leads a special team of engineers and scientists pioneering science operations on board the International Space Station.

Now she has joined another special group: Davis has been named by President Bush as one of only 32 NASA executives nationwide to receive one of the country’s highest honors for government service work.

Davis, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Applied Biology from Tech in 1975, received the 2002 Presidential Rank Meritorious Executive Award for her contributions to the Space Shuttle, International Space Station and other space projects.

Davis is currently the director of Flight Projects at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

“The honor conferred on Jan Davis is a source of pride and inspiration to me and the entire Marshall team,” said Art Stephenson, director of the Marshall Center. “Her selection demonstrates that hard work, dedication and achievement by those in public service do not go unrecognized, and that is tremendously gratifying to me.”

Davis oversees more than 1,400 civil service and contract workers at the Marshall Center. Her directorate is responsible for payload and science operations for the International Space Station, such as training crews to operate Space Station science experiments and operating the control center for those experiments. Other support for the International Space Station includes the production of eight EXPRESS racks which house experiments, the management of Node 2, Node 3, and three Multipurpose Logistics Modules, and the design and production of the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System. Davis is also responsible for the Chandra X-ray Observatory Program Office, overseeing operations of the world’s most powerful X-ray telescope.

“We’re in a period of change at NASA,” Davis said. “You have to be an aggressive leader of change if you’re going to succeed. I’ve been fortunate to work in a wide range of technical areas, from engineering, to science, to space flight. I’ve also had the chance to view NASA as an engineer, a team leader, an astronaut, and an executive. I try to bring that experience to bear every day because what we’re doing in space is so important to this country’s future.”

The Presidential Rank Awards honor executives who have provided exceptional service to the American people over an extended period of time. They are recognized for their strong leadership skills, strength, integrity and a commitment to outstanding public service. They are judge on their accomplishments and abilities in the areas of leading people leading change, achieving results, business ability, building coalitions, and fostering communications.

Davis, who grew up and went to school in Huntsville, began her career at Marshall in 1979 as an aerospace engineer. She worked on several major NASA programs and projects, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission, and the Space Shuttle. Davis was selected to join the astronaut corps in 1987. She spent more than 670 hours in space over the course of her three Shuttle flights.

In 1998, Davis became director of the Human Exploration and Development of Space Independent Assurance Office for NASA Headquarters, in Washington, D.C., providing safety oversight for all human spaceflight programs. She returned to Marshall in 1999 as deputy director of the Flight Projects Directorate and was named director of the directorate in January 2001.

NASA cited Davis for her work - both at both NASA Headquarters and upon her return to Marshall - to revamp and streamline business practices, eliminate bureaucracy and increase productivity. She worked with colleagues at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and Kennedy Space Center, Fla., and other field centers to establish new lines of communication, improve morale and build a cohesive team. She proved her results-oriented management style by automating processes and reducing costs, while maintaining critical work, including the delivery of experiment racks to the International Space Station, the construction and flight of logistics modules and carriers for Space Station supplies, and maintaining round-the-clock operations at the Space Station Payload Operations Center at the Marshall Center.

Davis, a 1971 graduate of Huntsville High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in applied biology in 1975 at Georgia Tech, and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1977 from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering in 1983 and 1985, respectively, from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. In 2001, she was elected to both the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame and the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame.