Saint Peter’s Professor Appointed AsMA Fellow

Frederick Bonato, Ph.D., professor of psychology and director of faculty research and sponsored programs at Saint Peter’s College, was recently inducted into the 2012 class of fellows for the Aerospace Medical Association.

“[This] is a great honor,” said Dr. Bonato, one of 24 individuals chosen for the rank. “I am not one for awards and distinctions, but I have to admit that I am very happy about being an AsMA fellow. The AsMA is a dedicated and passionate group and I am proud to be part of it.”

Before this appointment, Dr. Bonato served as a member of the AsMA since 2004. The organization is the largest, most-representative professional membership organization in the fields of aviation, space and environmental medicine; and its membership includes aerospace medicine specialists, flight nurses, physiologists, psychologists, human factors specialists and researchers in this field.

In order to be selected as an AsMA fellow, Dr. Bonato first had to be nominated. He said, “I believe that Dr. Jim Webb (AsMA president-elect) and Dr. Sally Nunneley (editor emerita) nominated me, as well as the Associate Fellows Group. I can only hope they are pleased with my service to the AsMA and to the aeromedical community as a whole and that is why they nominated me.”

According to Dr. Bonato, fellows are selected yearly utilizing a point system that relates to all activities/experiences that would qualify a member as a fellow based on a candidate’s qualification form. In order to qualify, AsMA members must have distinguished themselves among their colleagues and communities through service to aerospace medicine and promote the health, safety and performance of those involved in aerospace and related activities.
Dr. Bonato, along with Saint Peter’s College colleague and Professor of Psychology Andrea Bubka, Ph.D., is known within the campus community as the co-creator of the College’s very own optokinetic drum. Located within the Human Perception and Performance Laboratory at Pope Hall, the device is a rotating instrument with a striped or patterned interior. Vision is tested while individuals are seated facing the wall of the drum. As the drum rotates, the individual’s eyes are subject to a moving visual field while they remain stationary. After exposure to the rotating drum, participants are surveyed to determine their susceptibility to motion sickness. Motion sickness symptoms include dizziness, sweating, headache and nausea. His research in the field of motion sickness – particularly within space travel – not only contributed to Dr. Bonato’s appointment as an AsMA fellow, but also ignited his interest in becoming a member.

“When I became interested in motion sickness research, I did a lot of reading and discovered that a large percentage of the literature in that field was published by AsMA’s journal Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine,” he said. “When we finished our first motion sickness study, we sent it to ASEM. It seemed like a good fit. After it was clear that my interest in motion sickness would continue I decided to join AsMA.”

Since joining, he has presented at the AsMA’s annual conference, served on the Scientific Program Committee, was chair of the Associate Fellows Group Program Committee and volunteered on the AsMA Research and Education Committee. He also worked as a peer-reviewer for the ASEM and currently serves as the periodical’s editor-in-chief. His service to the AsMA was also a major factor in Dr. Bonato’s selection.

Fellowship is a lifelong appointment. While Dr. Bonato will continue to participate in the AsMA in the same capacity he did as a member, he will now also attend meetings, be able to nominate others for fellowship and can vote on candidates.

A professor of psychology at the College for 17 years, Dr. Bonato’s scientific research and appointments outside of the campus community strengthen his role as a teacher. He said, “In the classroom, my experiences have led to a lot of stories related to the courses I teach. I think students appreciate hearing about things from the professor’s direct experiences if possible. It also adds credibility to me as teacher. By contributing to my field in various ways, I am not simply conveying information from books and papers I have read (although I do that too).”

Adding to his credentials, Dr. Bonato and former Astronaut Scientist William Thornton, M.D., recently co-authored and submitted an article for publication on motion sickness. The piece presents a theory based on phylogeny and evolution as to why space motion sickness occurs.     

He said, “This understanding could help lead the way to more scientifically sound counter-measures because the problem is still very much present. Possible future missions to the moon, Mars, or asteroids will involve multiple changes in gravity. This will lead to even more space motion sickness, so working toward solving this problem seems important.”  

With all that he has accomplished in his career, Dr. Bonato hopes that his story will inspire students to realize and follow their dreams and interests. “I want to instill in students the idea that they can and should break through boundaries,” he said. “I was never trained specifically in the area of motion sickness. I learned it on my own and so far it has gone well. For a scientist trained in experimental psychology to become editor-in-chief of a medical journal is also rare. It is doable though. I want to help students stretch—help them push themselves.”