Millie Elizabeth Hughes-Fulford (born December 21, 1945) is an American medical investigator, molecular biologist and former NASA astronaut who flew aboard a NASA Space Shuttle mission as a Payload Specialist.
Hughes-Fulford was born in Mineral Wells, Texas. She graduated from Mineral Wells High School, in 1962, then received her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Biology from Tarleton State University in 1968, and her Ph.D. from Texas Woman's University in 1972.
She is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society for Gravitational Science and Biology, American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, American Society for Cell Biology and the Association of Space Explorers.
Hughes-Fulford entered college at the age of 16 and earned her B.Sc. degree in chemistry and biology from Tarleton State University in 1968. In 1968, Dr. Hughes-Fulford began her graduate work studying plasma chemistry at Texas Woman's University as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow from 1968–1971. She was an American Association of University Women fellow from 1971–1972. Upon completing her doctorate degree at TWU in 1972, Dr. Hughes-Fulford joined the faculty of Southwestern Medical School, University of Texas at Dallas as a postdoctoral fellow with Marvin D. Siperstein where her research focused on regulation of cholesterol metabolism. Dr. Hughes-Fulford has contributed over 90 papers and abstracts on bone and cancer growth regulation. Since then, she was named the Federal Employee of the Year for the Western Region in 1985, International Zontian in 1992 and Marin County Woman of the Year in 1994. She was a major in the US Army Reserve Medical Corps until 1995.
Selected as a payload specialist by NASA in January 1983, Hughes-Fulford flew in June 1991 aboard STS-40 Spacelab Life Sciences (SLS 1), the first Spacelab mission dedicated to biomedical studies. The SLS-1 mission flew over 3.2 million miles in 146 orbits and its crew completed over 18 experiments during a 9-day period, bringing back more medical data than any previous NASA flight. Mission duration was 218 hours, 14 minutes and 20 seconds.
Hughes-Fulford is a Professor at the University of California Medical Center at San Francisco where she continues her research. As the Director of the Laboratory for Cell Growth and Differentiation and Scientific Advisor to the Under Secretary of Veteran's Affairs, she studies the control of human prostate cancer growth with VA grants and the regulation of bone and lymphocyte activation with NASA grants.
She was the Principal Investigator (PI) on a series of SpaceHab/Biorack experiments, which examined the regulation of osteoblast (bone cell) growth. These experiments flew on STS-76, in March 1996, STS-81 in January 1997 and STS-84 in May 1997. These studies examined the root causes of osteoporosis that occurs in astronauts during spaceflight. She found changes in anabolic signal transduction in microgravity. Currently, in collaboration with Dr. Augusto Cogoli of Zurich, Switzerland, she is examining changes in T-cell gene induction in spaceflight in a joint NASA/ESA International Space Station experiment that will be going up on the Soyuz TMA-9 in September 2006. The previous Leukin experiment with Dr. Cogoli was lost on the STS-107 mission. This study (Leukin) examines the mechanism of action causing the decrease in T-cell activation in microgravity, a medical problem that was first found in returning Apollo astronauts. Isolated T-cells will be activated in spaceflight on Biopack hardware; the altered activation will be examined by reverse-transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RTPCR) analysis of induced genes. Further studies of gene regulation and signal transduction in spaceflight were approved in January 2002 for Shuttle/ISS experiments examining protein kinase C (PKC) signal activation.
Awards and honors
- 1995–present Organizing Committee for the International Conference on Eicosanoids and other active Bio-lipids
- 1995-2001 Advisory Board for Marine Biological Library Sciences Writing Program, Woods Hole, Mass
- 1994 Marin County Woman of the Year
- NASA Space Flight Medal
- 1987-1990 she was a member of the Committee on Space Biology and Space Medicine, National Research Council
- 1986-1989 Board of Regents Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida
- 1984 Presidential Award for Federal Employee for Western Region
- 1972 American Association of University Women's Fellowship
- 1968-1971 National Science Foundation Fellow (Graduate)
- 1965 National Science Foundation Summer Research Fellow (Undergraduate).