Astronaut, NC State grad Christina Koch named to Time 100 Most Influential List

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Astronaut Christina Koch, who graduated from North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham and NC State, was named to the Time 100 Most Influential People list.

"Let's face it -- Christina didn't need us to succeed. So we just feel lucky to be part of that," said Dr. Stephen Reynolds, a professor of physics who served as Koch's academic advisor at NC State.

Koch made history by taking part in the first all-female spacewalk and setting a record for longest single spaceflight by a woman.

"She wanted to be an astronaut from the time she was in undergraduate school," said Cecelia Townsend, the Coordinator of Undergraduate Advising for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NC State.

Townsend chose Koch to serve as a teaching assistant while she was on campus.

"She was wonderful, and these are hand-picked students. So definitely she stood out from the time she was young," she said.

Koch has often touted her North Carolina ties and is using her platform to encourage young people to pursue STEM.

"We had thousands and thousands of students -- middle school, high school students, packing a gigantic ballroom on campus. And it was amazing. Those kids were just enthralled that they were speaking directly with Christina," said John Blondin, a professor of physics at NC State who taught Koch, as he recalled the astronaut holding a virtual event while aboard the International Space Station.

She's helped motivate them using a simple message.

"Her message basically is, 'Don't be afraid. Go for it.' And it's great (for) those young people to hear that message, and dream big,'" Blondin explained.

NC State has also been quick to highlight Koch's success.

"I think it's hugely important. So we would as often as we can in good conscience would like to advertise Christina and advertise her presence. And many students have already said 'how cool. I go to the university that produces astronauts,'" Reynolds said.

Townsend agreed.

"We put her in our recruiting videos, and she's done a graduation speech from space. She's come to graduation and done the speech personally before she went into space. It's great to see that someone could come out of this program and really make it big," Townsend said.

Koch was named to the Time 100 list with Jessica Meir, who completed the all-female spacewalk alongside her. To read Time's write-up, click here.
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