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Mark Weislogel: Fearless Innovator

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Guiding experiments in space

Professor Mark Weislogel's specialty is weird shapes with a purpose — designed to control the flow of liquid in zero gravity.

Most recently, the PSU mechanical and materials engineering professor, with his research team and an astronaut on the International Space Station, created a cup that allows astronauts to drink coffee in space. Its teardrop-shape utilizes surface tension to direct liquid to the edge of the cup.

"You don't have to tilt it—there's no up and down in space—but you get the feeling of drinking," Weislogel says. "Astronauts don't like sucking out of a bag all the time."

For 12 years he has taught PSU students how to use math in innovative ways, such as moving liquids through zero gravity.

"It's a blast to discover how things work," Weislogel says. "You spout off ideas and back it up with math—that's engineering."

Weislogel came from a dream job at NASA where as a microgravity researcher he figured out how to transport liquids in space through experiments such as popping water balloons in low-gravity airplanes.

Today in his engineering lab at PSU, there are six live video channels from the space station. They allow Weislogel and his research team—which includes "rock-star" students whom he recruits—to communicate with astronauts on the space station and conduct experiments in true zero gravity.

"With ready access to the space station and 20 astronaut friends," he says, "we get the chance to design systems that are much more robust than what we have now."

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