First Harvard Medical School, Then Mars

Harvard Medical School, then Mars_Astronaut Abby_The Mars Generation

It’s a long journey to achieve the dream of becoming an astronaut. Since making it my goal to go to space and become the first astronaut to walk on Mars, I have committed myself to the growth of my career (through advanced education and work experience). I have also worked toward the development of additional skills and experience that have the potential to be valuable in improving my application to the highly competitive NASA astronaut candidate program. Here are nine accomplishments I’m especially proud of:

  1. I obtained my Bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College in biology while also studying Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin Chinese. It’s my sincere hope that being skilled in multiple languages will allow me to facilitate international cooperation in space exploration.
  2. I’ve jumped out of airplanes (with a parachute, of course!) to train my body to react to high altitudes, different G forces, and the sensation of freefall.
  3. I’ve gained advanced scuba diving certifications to prepare my body, mind, and lungs for the endurance needed to spend periods of time in low-gravity, high-pressure situations.
  4. I’ve earned a private pilot license and continue to work towards my next licensure (IR).
  5. I’ve become an avid runner and biker, with several marathons, half marathons and bike races under my belt, since physical fitness is essential to be an astronaut.
  6. I’ve conducted scientific field work in Siberia and astrobiological research with NASA.
  7. I wrote a book, Dream Big: How to Reach for Your Stars (coming out January 2021!) to help guide others on how to reach their dreams by sharing my own tools for success!
  8. I co-founded the non-profit, The Mars Generation, with my mom.The Mars Generation works to inspire and empower young people to achieve their big dreams while also educating and exciting the general public about the importance of space exploration and STEM education to the future of humankind.
  9. I’ve gained significant experience in science communication and public outreach by speaking at schools, conferences, and other venues around the world, as well as through social media.

Now, I am over the moon (or perhaps I should say over Mars!) excited to announce that the next step on my journey to Mars will be at Harvard Medical School (HMS). I have been invited to join their Jackson Lab as a research scientist, and my research advisor is Dr. R. Jackson from the HMS immunology department.

The Jackson Lab is a part of the Harvard Medical School Blavatnik Institute of Immunology. Immunology, or the study of the immune system, is a vast and (as I’m sure we’re all very aware nowadays!) critical field. In the Jackson Lab we take a genetics approach to focus on unknown molecules, sensory pathways, and cellular connections that are involved in inflammation in both diseased and healthy states. One of the exciting things we are doing is exploring mysterious parts of the human genome to further understand disease and illness. I am so excited to share more with all of you about the specific projects I’ll be working on in the near future!

But for now, you might be wondering–why immunology? It is a bit of a jump from my previous field of astrobiology. If it’s not directly related to space, you might ask, does it still build towards my dream of space travel? The answer is a resounding yes! Many astronauts have careers and specialties that are not directly related to space. Illness, and the intricate and complex systems that allow our bodies to manage and overcome illness have always fascinated me, and while the work that I’ll be doing won’t be directly related to work in the space field, it is still important to space exploration. Immunology and the effects of long duration space exploration on the immune system is an important field that will support the success of future deep space missions, and my research could contribute to that!

I am so excited to explore this new field, contribute meaningfully to society through my research, and gain valuable experiences and skills that I will be able to take with me throughout the rest of my scientific career. I’m also elated to be following in the footsteps of Harvard Medical School alumna Astronaut Jessica Meir, who is a huge inspiration to me!

I look at this job not only as a chance to develop my research skills and contribute meaningfully to society through my research, but also as an important next step in my long-term plan to become an astronaut.

As I take this exciting next step in my career, I’m especially looking forward to sharing my adventures at Harvard with all of you. I often speak of the importance of pursuing what you love in your studies, and I am thrilled to be doing exactly that! Make sure to sign up for email updates and/or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok to keep up to date on all my adventures over this next year and throughout my journey to Mars!

{PS: I’m so excited to be following my dream and want to help you find and follow yours as well. A great first step is by checking out my book, Dream Big: How to Reach for Your Stars, which is available right here!}

Comments

  1. Daniel Grenon says

    Hello Abby, do you plan to pass your amateur radio licence? I talked twice with ISS … i think all astronaut have an amateur radio licence.

    Daniel Grenon VE2GVB

    Canadian amateur radio operator fan of Abby projects

  2. Felix Quero says

    “If your reach does not exceed your grasp; what’s a heaven for?” Robert Browning

    Excellent journey Abby! You are inspiration to a new generation.

    I’ll see you on the flip-side of Mars.

  3. Sarfraz.bukhari Bokhari says

    Wish you a very good luck to achieve successes in achieving your desired goals. Keep on.

  4. Nihal Ahmed says

    My name is Nihal and i am from Egypt my dream is studying Aerospace Medicine . I am a physiotherapist I don’t know where or what i have to do because there is no department in my country called Aerospace Medicine . Studying abroad is so expensive..i am tired and I don’t know what i have to do .. if you could guide me i will appreciate that

  5. Pranathi says

    This is so inspiring, Abigail! I always wanted to do Space biology and contribute a little of something that I guess I have, for both the disciplines. Although, I’m interested in pursuing my career as a bioinformatician, I think this holds equally the same importance along with other disciplines of Biology. Looking forward for more inspiring yet fun from you. Best wishes!

  6. Lance says

    Best of luck on your journey! As a scientist myself and a big proponent of space exploration I am excited to see you on Mars!

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