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ARCS Scholar alumna is training to become an astronaut

Since she was a child, 2006-2009 ARCS Scholar Meir has dreamed of becoming an astronaut. She played with a space LEGO set and drew an astronaut to show her first-grade teacher what she wanted to be when she grew up. At Brown University her undergraduate team won a flight aboard a NASA zero-gravity plane for their proposal to use pig feet to test the effectiveness of surgical glue for closing wounds in space.

After earning an MS from International Space University, she worked for Lockheed Martin's Human Research Facility at Johnson Space Center, serving as a liaison between Earth-bound scientists and the astronauts who conducted their experiments aboard the Space Shuttle or International Space Station. And she was part of a NASA program aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aquarius undersea outpost before returning to graduate school.

Now she is back as an astronaut candidate training to “push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system, including an asteroid and Mars,” according to the NASA news release announcing the space agency’s Astronaut Class of 2013. She and seven other candidates selected from more than 6,100 applicants are in their second year of astronaut training, tackling survival school and Russian language along with intensive technical training at space centers around the globe.

“It still feels incredibly surreal that my dream has actually come true,” she told Scripps News.  Meir received her doctorate in marine physiology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego WHERE SHE RECEIVED ARCS AWARD(S) FROM THE ARCS FOUNDATION SAN DIEGO CHAPTER.

Her doctoral research focused on the hypoxic (low oxygen) tolerance of deep diving emperor penguins and elephant seals. She continued the investigation as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia, looking at bar-headed geese, whose migration route takes them across the Himalayas twice a year. She describes her research in an America Public Media interview

Meir’s studies have biomedical implications for minimizing tissue damage during heart attacks and strokes, as well as space applications in countering decompression sickness potentially affecting astronauts during extra-vehicular activity. Warren Zapol, the Reginald Jenney Professor of Anesthesia, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, has similar interests. He recruited Meir as an assistant professor of anesthesia in 2011. She is on leave for the two-year NASA training.

Describing herself as very passionate about scientific outreach and education, Meir said she is “thrilled to have another avenue to help inspire the next generation of scientists and explorers.”

“She’s going to be a great ambassador for science,” Zapol told the Harvard Gazette.  “NASA has made a very good choice.”

 

"I certainly would not have made it this far if it weren't for the incredible support of my mentors and funding sources like ARCS Foundation."

Jessica Meir
ARCS Scholar 2006-2009