top of page


Conversation -- Main Theatre, UAlbany Performing Arts Center

University at Albany

1400 Washington Avenue, Albany NY 12222  See map.

Registration required:

Leland Melvin

7 p.m. Thursday, October 5, 2023

Leland Melvin is an engineer, educator, former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver. He served on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on mission STS-122 (2008) and STS-129 (2009), helping to construct the International Space Station. Subsequently, he led NASA Education and co-chaired the White House’s Federal Coordination in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Education Task Force, developing the nation’s 5-year STEM education plan.


His 2017 memoir, Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances, shares his life story as an athlete, astronaut, scientist, engineer, photographer, and musician in order to help inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue STEAM careers.

Presented by the Albert Bunshaft ’80 and Caryn Bunshaft ’82 Lecture Endowment, Alumni Association, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Honors College, Office of Student Affairs, NYS Writers Institute, and University Auxiliary Services.

Leland Melvin, Chasing Space book cover
"Leland Melvin: Astronaut by Chemistry"

Leland Melvin never meant to become an astronaut. He remembers Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, but he doesn't remember being especially impressed.

"I think I was in my own little world of dirt club battles and cowboys and Indians," he said. "I vaguely remember it, but it wasn't something like, 'Hey, I want to do that!'"

What did impress him was chemistry.

"My mom gave me a chemistry set when I was a kid, and I made this little concoction and blew up something on their rug," Melvin said. "That was like, 'Wow.' So I became a chemistry major."

Landing a job at NASA didn't change his focus. And even when a friend in the office told Melvin he'd make a great astronaut and gave him an application, he blew it off.

"I said, 'Yeah, right – whatever,'" he recalled. "Didn't fill it out." Read more at

Astronaut Leland Melvin talks to students.

Astronaut Leland Melvin talks to students in the cafeteria at Gainesville Elementary School, a NASA Explorer School in Gainesville, Ga. (Photo credit: NASA/KSC)

About the Bunshaft Lecture

Established through the generosity of Albert Bunshaft ’80 and Caryn Bunshaft ’82, The Bunshaft Endowment in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences supports programming that provides information and inspiration to UAlbany’s student community about careers in computing and engineering sciences.

bottom of page