Moira A. Gunn
Host, National Public Radio
For her leadership in bringing together people and technology, building conversations at the frontiers of new knowledge, and making possible the informed considerations critical to responsible citizenship in a global community
After becoming the first woman to earn a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering at Purdue, Moira Gunn gained valuable hands-on experience as a NASA computer scientist and engineer. Today, she is best known as the host of the "Tech Nation" and "BioTech Nation" public radio programs, where she relates the impact and challenges of science and technology to audiences around the world.
Gunn created "Tech Nation" in 1993, a time when she could readily see the rise of personal tech, and went on to create "BioTech Nation" in 2004, when DNA, genetically-modified food, and bioenergy moved into national focus. This programming is now heard weekly on more than 200 public radio stations, six National Public Radio Sirius satellite radio channels, multiple times to 133 countries via American Forces Radio International, and hundreds of thousands of downloads via the Internet. In more than 2,000 interviews, she has talked with business leaders including Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin, scientists such as Crick and Watson, politicians such as John McCain and John Kerry, and Nobel Laureates from Linus Pauling to Muhammad Yunus.
Gunn's topics are diverse—they range from biotech extracted from wallabees to cutting-edge Parkinson's surgery, from high-tech business to national politics and social issues to the role that technology plays in history. Gunn strives to show that all facets of the world we live in are affected by science and technology. "We're trying to make sense of an overwhelming wave of life-changing technologies. People are desperate to make sense of it," she says.
During her tenure with NASA, Gunn worked in large-scale scientific computation and global communications. She went on to work as a consultant and applied her expertise to areas such as robotics, financial data management, and nutrition research for clients ranging from IBM to the U.S. Navy. She holds a patent with two USDA scientists for technology key to human nutrition research.
Today, Gunn is director of the Information Systems programs for working professionals at the University of San Francisco. There she has created specialized emphases in information security and revamped the curriculum to bring unprecedented enrollments in the BSIS and MSIS degree programs. In 2006, she founded the Science Journalism Laureates Program at Purdue, which has drawn a global community of science journalists and thought leaders to the university.
With her two sons grown, now—more than ever—Gunn is energized by an ever-expanding sense of wonder about the place of science and technology in our world. She envisions no end to the topics she covers and the people she interviews on her popular radio programs. In her words, "Everyone is essential. Everyone is a piece of the puzzle."
Gunn's Purdue awards include Distinguished Science Alumni Award (2007), Science Journalism Laureate (2006), College of Science Dean's Ovation Award (2006), Outstanding Mechanical Engineer (2001), and Old Master (2000).
MS '72 (Computer Science), Purdue University
BS '70 (Computer Science), University of San Francisco