Vincent Michaud ‘84 takes his double major in chemistry and environmental sciences to places “out of this world,” through his role at NASA. After finishing his undergraduate career at TCU, he went to medical school to become a physician, leading him to his current position. Michaud serves as NASA’s Deputy Chief Health and Medical Officer, the role responsible for policy and oversight for anything medical-related in the agency. His profession runs a spectrum from, “making sure we have a safe working environment for our employees and taking care of the astronauts, to providing subject matter expertise into the design, development and testing activities related to hardware development, specifically spaceships and planes.” One aspect of his job includes working with engineers to make sure they are providing a safe vehicle where humans can perform at their highest ability, while simultaneously keeping astronauts healthy and safe.
Michaud said several TCU courses he took as an undergraduate are applicable to his career today. He currently supports experiments on ways to create life support in space stations and spaceships, along with applying chemistry to work through technologies that can improve these systems. In regard to his environmental sciences background, he said that classes in the field of ecology oddly enough have great application, “One of the basic tenants of ecology is water and air quality and keeping them clean, and now I’m involved in keeping the water and the air on the space stations clean.”
Another class that has played a pivotal role in his career is organic chemistry, as it has been “foundational, not only throughout my medical career, but also now looking at different pharmaceuticals for the astronauts, he said.” Organic chemistry research in the research labs, working with former professor, William B. Smith, was very helpful in teaching him basic chemistry, in addition to conducting independent research.
One of Michaud’s favorite memories from his time at TCU was his involvement in Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED) pre-health honor society, as he still comes back to speak at meetings and events. AED provided Michaud opportunities as an undergraduate to serve in local medical interactions, shadow professions and attend frequent social activities. “Being a part of that organization was one of the better memories,” he said.
His advice to current TCU College of Science & Engineering students is to, “be the best at what you are doing at the moment- it is obvious to other folks that you are a high-quality person and when they see that they tend to want to help you, promote you and get you to do bigger and better things.” When it comes to applying knowledge from classes, “you never know which classes are really going to make a difference,” so it is important to focus on the present and do your best to excel one step at a time.