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Go inside astronauts’ minds at Lone Star College-Montgomery

 
Imagine you are on a dangerous mission to Mars in a cramped, cold spacecraft. If you leave the facilities without a bulky space suit you will not survive and your only in-person interactions are with your fellow astronauts who you will live with in these conditions for years. Could you handle the pressure?
 
Industrial/organizational psychologist, Dr. Kelley J. Slack can tell you if you have what it takes to mentally make it on a trip to Mars. Dr. Slack is part of NASA’s Behavioral Health and Performance group and she is speaking at Lone Star College-Montgomery Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 1 p.m. in building G, Room 102. Her talk is free and open to the public.
 
“We are poised to be witnesses to a new age in space travel, “ said Dr. Karen Buckman, professor of psychology at LSC-Montgomery. “There is a frenzy about making it to Mars; when it happens the focus will be on the high-tech gadgetry getting the astronauts there, but it is really the right mental stuff that will sustain the mission and Dr. Slack really brings that message home.”
 
“I personally think the mission to Mars is captivating people’s attention because at heart humans like to explore,” Dr. Slack observes. “Americans in particular like to go out and find new and exciting places, that’s how the United States came into being. We have explored so much of Earth. Space is the natural next place to go.”
 
As an industrial/organizational psychologist, Dr. Slack uses psychological principles and research gained through studying people she then applies that evidence to the workplace to better understand actions there. In this case the workplace is space.
 
“I am trying to get at astronaut applicants’ behavior, how they have acted in the past and how they would act again in different situations,” said Dr. Slack. “The best questions to ask are ones like, ‘Tell me about a time when you were working on a team project, you encountered a problem and you were unable to meet the deadline. What happened and what did you do about?’”
 
If you are looking to become an astronaut, good luck. Dr. Slack says there is a pool of approximately 18,000 applications that NASA has to narrow down to 120 candidates. Only those 120 actually get to do in person interviews.
 
“Learn a lot, get a good STEM background and study something in the hard sciences,” she recommends. “Then get a lot of different experiences under your belt to differentiate yourself. So as a kid, if you are interested in space, go to NASA’s website and look for internships. They have internships as early as middle school.”
 
Dr. Slack has the same advice for aspiring psychologists.
 
“Take general psychology classes as an undergraduate,” she advises. “Also talk to practicing psychologists. See if you can get a job, even if you are doing a free internship for just a couple weeks. Try to get in the environment to see exactly what they are doing on a day-to-day basis.”
 
Dr. Slack’s presentation is sponsored by the LSC-Montgomery Psychology Club and Psi Beta, the national psychology honor society for community colleges.
 
Lone Star College offers high-quality, low-cost academic transfer and career training education to 98,000 students each semester. LSC is training tomorrow’s workforce today and redefining the community college experience to support student success. Stephen C. Head, Ph.D., serves as chancellor of LSC, the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area with an annual economic impact of $3.1 billion. LSC consists of six colleges, eight centers, two university centers, Lone Star Corporate College and LSC-Online. To learn more, visit LoneStar.edu