Dr. Kurt Polzin, Class of 1994
The 2023 Award of Distinction Ceremony was held on Friday, October 13, 2023, at 5:30 p.m. in the Rossford Junior-Senior High School Auditorium where this year’s honoree, Dr. Kurt Polzin, was recognized for his significant contributions to society.
Dr. Kurt Polzin is a 1994 graduate of Rossford High School who serves as a leader of the nation’s space program, as a distinguished and internationally-respected researcher in the aerospace engineering field, and as a teacher and mentor educating America’s next generation of engineers and scientists.
While attending The Ohio State University, Kurt received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1999, graduating summa cum laude with distinction in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. In 2006, he completed his Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University as a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow.
For the past two years, Kurt has served as the Chief Engineer for Space Nuclear Propulsion at NASA’s George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama, leading all technical aspects of NASA’s development of nuclear propulsion systems for use in human and robotic exploration of the solar system. In this role, he additionally has responsibility for development on the recently-announced joint-DARPA/NASA Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) project to fly the first-ever in-space nuclear propulsion demonstration. In 2004, he joined the NASA-MSFC Propulsion Research and Development Laboratory as a propulsion research engineer. Prior to his current position, he spent two years as the Space Systems Team lead for MSFC Advanced Concepts Office, leading early conceptual spacecraft system and mission designs and analyses.
As an international expert in the aerospace field, Kurt has written over 140 publications, including a recently-published monograph. He holds six U.S. patents and is frequently invited to deliver lectures and participate in panel sessions at major technical conferences, forums, and universities. He is an active member of various professional societies and organizations. He is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), a Senior Member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the co-chair for advanced propulsion within the Joint Army-Navy-NASA-Air Force (JANNAF) Spacecraft Propulsion Subcommittee. Kurt was elected to lead the Greater Huntsville Section of AIAA from 2015-2016, and he recently completed his second three-year term as Regional Director of the AIAA Southeast Region.
Since joining NASA, Kurt has been a teacher and mentor to dozens of students, hosting undergraduate and graduate student interns at NASA-MSFC. He has also been an Adjunct Professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville for many years, teaching graduate-level courses in physics and engineering.
Kurt and his wife, Sheri, have been married since 2000. They have two daughters, Allie and Reagan, and presently reside in Huntsville, Alabama. Kurt is the son of David and Linda Polzin of Perrysburg, Ohio.