Women's Heritage Month graphic

Former astronaut and physicist, Kathryn C. Thornton, will be the guest speaker at the Gerald M. Scherba Lecture on March 14 at 2 p.m. The event, hosted by the College of Natural Sciences, will take place in Pfau Library 5005 on the 5th floor. This in-person and virtual event is free and open to the public.

RSVP for the lecture, either in person or via Zoom, online.

In addition to the main event, Thornton will host a special session exclusively for students from noon to 1 p.m. in the John M. Pfau Library, room PL-5005.

“The College of Natural Sciences is proud to bring Dr. Thornton to the university for Women’s History Month,” said Sastry Pantula, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “Her presence and insights into space exploration and the world of physics will greatly enrich our educational community.”

Thornton, a professor emeritus in physics at the University of Virginia, has made significant contributions to education and science.

Her illustrious career as a former astronaut and physicist includes serving as a mission specialist on the crew of STS-33 aboard the space shuttle Discovery, the fifth space shuttle mission dedicated to the U.S. Department of Defense, which launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in 1989. Her second flight, in 1992, saw her as a crew member on the maiden voyage of the space shuttle Endeavour (STS-49), where they performed four spacewalks to retrieve, repair and deploy the International Telecommunications Satellite. Thornton also played a pivotal role in the servicing and repair mission of the Hubble Space Telescope (STS-61) and as the payload commander on space shuttle Columbia’s (STS-73) mission, which focused on materials science, biotechnology, combustion science and the physics of fluids.

After she left NASA in 1996, Thornton embarked on a 23-year career in academia, teaching as a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, where she also served as associate dean for graduate programs.

Thornton earned her bachelor of science degree in physics from Auburn University, her master of science degree and her doctorate degree from the University of Virginia.

Thornton’s induction into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010 solidified her legacy as a pioneering figure in space exploration and scientific inquiry.

The Gerald M. Scherba Endowed Program Lecture Series at CSUSB offers the public a clear understanding of the natural sciences and their global impact. The lecture series is named after CSUSB founding faculty member, Gerald Scherba, the first science professor hired in 1962, and honors his legacy of academic excellence and commitment to scientific inquiry.