This summer I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Within this program, I first attended the Bioastronautics Institute and then interned with NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. Through my time with NASA I was able to figure out where biomedical engineers, such as myself, fit into the space program.
The Bioastronautics Institute was a whole week of presentations from post-doctoral students, chief scientists, and even astronauts. We heard all about cutting-edge research in the field of space life sciences, such as countermeasures for bone loss caused by spending long durations in microgravity. We heard about outreach efforts, happening through NASA, with the aim of getting kids excited about science and engineering. And although I personally cannot imagine going into space, we learned about what it takes to become an astronaut and the lifestyle they have during training and in space.
After the first week, I dove into my internship at the Johnson Space Center in building 37, home of the Biomedical Sciences. The first few days were filled with meetings to learn the objective behind the research with which I would be assisting: to find a possible countermeasure to the negative side effects caused by space radiation. Being a part of this project was exciting because space radiation is considered, by many at NASA, to be th
e number one road block on the mission to Mars.
In the midst of summer, my typical day started in the lab prepping white blood cellsamples for simulated microgravity culture. Once those cells were incubating, I would promptly start analyzing the previous day’s samples using a technique called polymerase chain reaction, which outputs the dysregulations seen in the cells’ gene expression. Furthermore, several days a week, we had guest speakers give presentations on topics related to NASA, i.e. how food science fits into an astronaut’s life.
My days were sometimes extremely busy and I was constantly running around, but it wasn’t hard to find motivation to keep working. Being able to play a role, no matter how small, in getting man on Mars was an amazing experience that I will never forget.