Space research institute selects young scientists for fellowships

The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) has selected four young researchers to be part of its latest class of Postdoctoral Fellows.

The program offers Fellows the opportunity to manage their own space-related biomedical research project while continuing to learn from an experienced faculty mentor. Participants receive a $40,000 stipend and funds to cover health insurance and travel to NSBRI-related meetings. Fellows also attend a summer institute in Houston that provides an introduction to NASA Johnson Space Center’s research facilities and programs.

"The new Fellows represent some of the brightest young researchers in the United States, and we are excited to have them involved in NSBRI’s efforts to solve the human health problems related to long-duration spaceflight," said Dr. Jeffrey P. Sutton, NSBRI director.

The 2009-2011 NSBRI Postdoctoral Fellows, their institutions and mentors are:

"In addition to providing funding, the NSBRI Fellowship Program allows the participants to be fully involved with one of our seven research teams," Sutton said. "They participate in meetings and attend investigator retreats, allowing them to build professional relationships within the space biomedical research community and NASA."

The four projects address health concerns for long-duration spaceflight. Two of the projects are part of NSBRI’s Musculoskeletal Alterations Team. Kubota is studying the mechanisms of bone loss in space, and Pandorf is looking at the use of exercise to counteract muscle loss in reduced gravity. Phillips and Sá are members of the Human Factors and Performance Team. Phillips is developing a comprehensive model to help astronauts maintain an efficient sleep-wake cycle in space, and Sá is studying the movement of inhaled particles inside the lungs in reduced gravity.

To be selected, applicants submit detailed research project proposals to investigate a solution to a space health risk or to develop a technology needed to enable research or medical care in space. The research must involve a mentor and be carried out at a U.S. laboratory doing space-related biomedical or biotechnological research.

Applications are reviewed for scientific and technical merit by the Fellowship Committee and by NSBRI management to ensure relevance to the Institute’s research program goals. NSBRI solicits fellowship applications annually. With the addition of this class, 21 young researchers have participated in the program.

Funded by NASA, NSBRI studies the health risks related to long-duration spaceflight with peer-reviewed science, technology and education projects at more than 60 institutions across the United States. The Institute’s science and technology projects address bone and muscle loss, cardiovascular changes, balance and orientation, radiation exposure, neurobehavioral and psychosocial factors, remote medical care and related technologies, and habitability and performance issues such as sleep cycles and lunar dust exposure. Research findings also impact the understanding and treatment of similar medical conditions experienced on Earth.

Brad Thomas