Pablo de Leon checks on a space suit.

Going Above and Beyond

Dr. Pablo de León chairs the UND Space Studies program and holds the additional titles of professor, researcher and space suit inventor.

He also directs the UND Human Spaceflight Laboratory, which is home to the Inflatable Lunar Mars Habitat.

Since 2014, nine missions have taken place in the NASA-funded project, giving students research experience from a campus-based environment that mimics that of the planet Mars. Research projects have ranged from testing medical effects of long-duration spaceflight to plant growth on Martian soil. The habitat is the only system of its kind on a university campus in the U.S.

Dr. de León, an Argentine aerospace engineer, came to UND in 2004 from the Kennedy Space Center. An initial 9-month contract turned into a long-term commitment. “The School of Aerospace is second to none,” stated Dr. de León. “The School prides itself on entrepreneurship – we really take ownership of what we do here.”

The national platform Dr. de León helped create at UND has attracted notable aerospace partnerships and students from all over the world. It has also led to bright futures for graduates.

“I always joke that NASA and large aerospace contractors grab our graduates even before the ink is dry on their diplomas, but this is true. I am amazed at the quality of our students and the great careers they develop after they leave us,” said Dr. de León.

I am amazed at the quality of our students and the great careers they develop after they leave us.


One professor can touch the lives of many. Supporting endowed faculty like Dr. de León will continue to elevate the University of North Dakota while attracting the best and brightest of scholars. Increasing support for our endowed faculty will allow us to:

  • Attract and retain outstanding teaching and research faculty
  • Draw top-notch students who want to work with leading scholars
  • Secure research grants and private support
  • Expand the University’s profile and participation across the networks
  • Foster media attention and bring in national conferences

learn more about Endowed Faculty