Three years ago I had an experience of a Lifetime. My mentor, Astronaut Luca Parmitano, invited me to attend his first launch to the International Space Station. I travelled to Russia and then to Baikonur Kazakhstan to attend his Soyuz launch. I shared the travel and experience, launch and his six months living on the ISS with my community online and offline culminating with a TEDx talk in October of 2013. To say this experience was amazing is an understatement. It launched me to run a worldwide outreach program and eventually to launch my own nonprofit, The Mars Generation. Now three years later I head to Russia again, this time for my first scientific research expedition.
I’m excited to have been chosen to participate in Wellesley College’s 2016 scientific research expedition to Siberia’s Lake Baikal. I have been chosen as one of 12 Wellesley students for this exciting opportunity. We will join our professor, Professor Marianne Moore (Professor of Environmental Science and Biological Sciences) in August 2016 for this expedition. This is a very different experience than my first time to Russia, but equally unique and amazing. I am excited to share my experiences online and hope to inspire many young future scientists along the way!
Professor Moore is collaborating with a team of 15 scientists from the United States and Russia in a long term study exploring the effect of climate change on Lake Baikal. Lake Baikal is the oldest, deepest, and most biodiverse lake on Earth, making it an ideal spot for biological research. This expedition is an incredible opportunity for my classmates and I to explore Russian culture, improve our ability to speak Russian, and gain experience in field work and scientific research. I am so thankful and honored to have been chosen to participate in this program, especially as a first year student.
To prepare to spend a month living and working on the shores of Lake Baikal, my classmates and I are taking a class this semester titled ‘Lake Baikal: the Soul of Siberia’. This class will focus for the first half of the semester on Russian culture, and the second half of the semester on planning the experiments that we want to conduct during the expedition. I will also be taking another biology class (one which is central to my astrobiology major) and continuing with intermediate Russian part two (4th semester Russian).
This is an exciting opportunity for me to be able to partake in. To be gaining experience in scientific research and potentially publishing as a co-author with my professor this early in my scientific career is wonderful. This is the type of work that I will begin to build my professional resume from, and eventually will lead towards my future career as a scientist and hopefully someday a NASA astronaut. I hope you will follow me adventure to Siberia and join in asking questions and participating in sharing the experience.