Kate Rubins, Alumna Astronaut, on Enhancing Human Health from Outer Space

A panel discussion featuring four specialists in the field of space technology was held recently, led by Kiana Aran, a bioengineering professor at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Audience members got the chance to hear about the unique pathways each expert took to end up in the industry, including their earliest sources of inspiration.

Chantal Darquenne, a School of Medicine professor, traced her space fascination back to her childhood in Belgium. Her passion was sparked when her father made her watch the first astronaut’s moonwalk on TV. She pursued her academic journey in Belgium, earning her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and her doctorate in applied sciences. Later, she moved to UC San Diego for a postdoctoral fellowship that focused on the study of lung function in space. This research paved her career path, leading her to the presidency of the International Society for Aerosols in Medicine, and helping her lead research in areas such as lung ventilation and upper airway dynamics.

Alex Nemiroski, BioNexus’s CEO, got his introduction to space technology from his grandfather who worked on designing space suits for Russia’s space program in the 1960s. This family connection sparked Alex’s interest in science from a young age. From the time he was five, he expressed a desire to be a scientist and showed a particular interest in the connection between technology, engineering, biology and medicine. His academic journey took him from a physics degree from Cornell to a doctorate from Harvard. After a successful stint at Illumina and contributing to the growth of a start-up, Alex established BioNexus. The company focuses on advancing the development of biological tools and medical devices.

As the symposium wrapped up, it was evident that the convergence of space research and health technology has vast potential. Experts like Rubins, Shirazi, Darquenne, and Nemiroski stand at the forefront of this exploration. Their groundbreaking work continues to push the limits of human knowledge and abilities, both in space and here on Earth. Their pioneering contributions to space research not only help us understand the universe better but also have significant implications for improving health technology.

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