Karen L. Nyberg

Karen Nyberg

M.S. ME, 1996; Ph.D. ME, 1998
Chief, Astronaut Office Robotics Branch, NASA/Johnson Space Center

Karen Nyberg became the 50th woman in space on May 31, 2008, as a mission specialist on board STS-124, Space Shuttle Discovery’s flight to the International Space Station.

Born in Vining, Minnesota, Karen earned her bachelor of science degree from the University of North Dakota in 1994. She immediately entered graduate school at The University of Texas at Austin and earned her master's and doctor's degree in mechanical engineering. She is currently chief of the Astronaut Office Robotics Branch at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

Karen began her career at NASA in 1991 with a co-op position, receiving a patent during that time for her work on the Robotic Friendly Probe and Socket Assembly. She later worked as an environmental control systems engineer for the Crew and Thermal Systems Division, and in August 2000, she began training as a mission specialist.

Karen has held various positions within NASA's Astronaut Office, including crew support astronaut and Capsule Communicator for the Expedition 6 crew during their six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. She served on the Orbiter Damage Assessment and Repair Teams and on the Advanced Spacesuits project. In 2006, she was a crewmember on NEEMO 10, a deep-sea training and simulation exercise at the Aquarius underwater laboratory, testing concepts for human’s return to the moon and eventual missions to Mars. On the STS-124 mission, she logged over 13 days in space, while Shuttle astronauts delivered the Japanese 37-foot Kibo laboratory.

Karen has received many honors and awards, including the Space Flight Medal, The University of Texas at Austin Outstanding Young Mechanical Engineer Award, and the NASA Johnson Space Center Cooperative Education Special Achievement Award, among others. She is a Friend of Alec and a supporter of the Women in Engineering Program and the Cockrell School’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

DEG Honorees

A "Distinguished Engineering Graduate" (DEG) is a graduate who has presented him or herself to the world as a consummate professional and dedicated engineer. Learn more about past DEG honorees.