NASA and Tippie form first official partnership for new grant

Daniel Newton, a professor in the Tippie College of Business, received a grant from NASA on how to stay engaged when astronomies switch task to task. The fund is the first partnership between the Tippie College of Business and NASA—one of many among the multiple partnerships between University of Iowa and NASA.


Ryan Adams

Assistant Professor of Management Daniel Newton poses for a portrait at the Tippie College of Business on October 9, 2019. Newton was commissioned by NASA to research task switching in efforts to help astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Kexin Cheng, News Reporter

Space and business are colliding for the first time at the University of Iowa. 

The Tippie College of Business recently announced its first official partnership with NASA for a new grant. UI Assistant Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship Daniel Newton and a team of university researchers received a $900,000 grant from NASA to study how astronauts can stay engaged and motivated while in space and switch tasks often. 

The project is nearing its end as the grant reaches its fifth year.

“Most of the study has been in a habitat in Houston,” Newton said. “A habitat meaning an isolation facility — where people live for 30 to 45 days and kind of in isolation. It’s very small.” 

Eleven crew members went to the habitat for the research, Newton said. The researchers looked at how the crews maintained their engagement in their specialty as time passed, Newton said. 

Another habitat is in Russia that researches many of the same methods as its Texan counterpart, such as how clients maintain their motivation, Newton said. However, the habitat in Houston is his main concern. 

“For Houston, I go down all the time. I usually go four times a year or so,” Newton said. “Usually in Houston there is a research conference every January where we share our research and collaboration with others.”

Crew members will report their motivation levels in January, Newton said, based on the surveys he designed. He will also debrief with astronauts who recently come back to Earth and ask them about their expeirences when he goes to Houston.

Among the myriad of partnerships between the UI and NASA, the majority stem directly from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, said Craig Kletzing. Kletzing is a professor in the department and a co-investigator on NASA’s multi-disciplinary mission. 

RELATED: NASA head talks space exploration at University of Iowa visit

Newton’s grant from NASA is the first project the Tippie College of Business joined with NASA to work on, Senior Associate Tippie Dean Amy Kristof-Brown said.

“The College of Business has several grants, but the only grant we have with NASA is the one with Professor Newton,” Kristof-Brown said.

Newton said NASA’s partnership with Tippie allows for collaboration among different departments and an opportunity for the astronauts to work more efficiently in space. 

Although the NASA grant and project is nearing the end, Newton will continue his work, he said. 

The UI and NASA have been partners for a long time — since the ‘50s and the days of legendary UI space scientist James Van Allen, said UI Professor Philip Kaaret, director of research operations in the Physics and Astronomy Department.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine visited the UI in August to discuss the university’s involvement in a major $115 million research mission that aims to protect network systems such as GPS from solar flares.

“… Space touches all of our lives in so many ways that people don’t realize,” Bridenstine said during his visit.