Bonnie J. Dunbar

Bonnie Dunbar stands with a model of the space shuttleBonnie J. Dunbar is the recipient of the 2020 Sigma Xi John P. McGovern Science and Society Award. The McGovern Award has recognized achievements by a scientist or engineer that transcends their career as a researcher. Recipients of this award represent a broad spectrum of individuals whose varied activities supported research, the communication of science, and the impact of science on society. 

The award consists of a medal and a $5,000 honorarium. The recipient presents a lecture at the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference.

She receives the award for her leadership and contributions in aerospace engineering; work spanning industry, academia, and government; a commitment to furthering engineering and science education at Texas A&M; and outreach to K–12 students.

Dunbar is a retired NASA astronaut, engineer, and educator currently with Texas A&M University as a Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. She is also the director of the Aerospace Human Systems Laboratory (AHSL) at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. 

Dunbar, who is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, came to Texas A&M from the University of Houston where she was an M.D. Anderson Professor of Mechanical Engineering. There she provided leadership in the development of a new integrated university science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) center and was director of the Science and Engineering Fair of Houston. She also taught the mechanical engineering “Introduction to Engineering” course, and directed the SICSA Space Architecture and Aerospace graduate programs.
Dunbar worked for The Rockwell International Space Division Company building Space Shuttle Columbia and worked for 27 years at NASA, first as a flight controller and then as a mission specialist astronaut, where she flew five space shuttle flights, logging more than 50 days in space. She then served for seven years as a member of the NASA Senior Executive Service (SES). Her executive service included assistant NASA JSC director for university research; deputy director for Flight Crew Operations; associate director for ISS Mission Operations development, and as NASA headquarters deputy associate administrator for the Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications (OLMSA). 

After retiring from NASA, Dunbar became president and CEO of The Museum of Flight in Seattle, where she established a new Space Gallery and expanded its K–12 STEM educational offerings. She has also consulted in aerospace and STEM education as the president of Dunbar International LLC, and is an internationally known public speaker and advocate of science, engineering, and mathematical studies.

Dunbar holds bachelor and master degrees in ceramic engineering from the University of Washington and a PhD in mechanical/biomedical engineering from the University of Houston.

She is a Fellow of the American Ceramic Society, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Royal Aeronautical Society. She has been awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal five times, the NASA Exceptional Leadership Medal, and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. Dunbar was inducted into the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and, in 2002 was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. In 2013, she was selected into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, in 2016 she was inducted into the Omega Alpha Association (OAA) Systems Engineering Honor Society, and in 2017 Dunbar was elected as the president of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE).