Kate Rubins: a woman biologist in Space

On July 9th, 2016, Kate Rubins, Anatoly Ivanishin and Takuya Onishi arrived at the International Space Station after a 2-day journey and 34 Earth orbits. The three crew members joined their Expedition 48 colleagues and will remain on the Space Station until October. DiscovHER takes a look at the remarkable Kate Rubins, a biologist turned astronaut, who will be undertaking some pretty cool experiments during her time onboard.

From a young age, Rubins dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Her room was covered in pictures of the space shuttle and after a week at Space Camp in Alabama, she was sold! However, as she grew up, she questioned just how “realistic” this dream was and focused her interest in the sciences on biology instead.

She excelled in her field, earning a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology from the University of California and a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from Stanford University. She headed a lab at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and her various positions researching infectious diseases gave her unique experience she can apply while on the Space Station, conducting experiments and dealing with potential crises. She worked in Biosafety Level 4 labs and in the Congo, where she had to be very weary of exposure to disease and use biosafety suits that limited her mobility and dexterity, while performing difficult tasks.

In 2009, she applied and was accepted into the 20th NASA astronaut class and has spent 7 years training for this moment (from learning about the International Space Station systems, to spacewalks, to T 38 flight training, robotics, physiological training, and wilderness survival training). Now on the Space Station, Rubins will conduct research in biological and human studies, and focus particularly on the effect that gravity has on the human body, as well as sequencing DNA in orbit. She told ABC News : 

“I think it’s going to be amazing to see how the world of microbiology, molecular and cellular biology and human physiology is massively changed by microgravity. This is the only laboratory we have as humans to study gravity as a variable”.

Among many other significant implications of her research onboard, she will contribute to the preparation of the Mars mission, helping to understand the effects of space travel on the human body.

What other women astronauts have inspired you? Let us know @4womeninscience

For Women in Science

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