KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), October 6, 2022— A graduate researcher working on her doctorate in aerospace engineering, a medical student who founded a company focused on the commercialization of low Earth orbit (LEO), and an undergraduate student in the field of cosmology will be the first three students to work closely with mentors from the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory as James A. Abrahamson Space Leader Fellows. The fellowship is a 12-month advanced learning experience sponsored by the ISS National Lab through the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS).
Fellows will get the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in future space-related careers. Throughout the program, the fellows will work with both an ISS National Lab mentor and a subject matter expert in a field relevant to their major area of study and aerospace career interest. The students will also have an opportunity to network with ISS National Lab stakeholders to advance the ISS National Lab’s mission and our nation’s goal to commercialize LEO.
“Congratulations to the first-ever recipients of the James A. Abrahamson Space Fellowship,” said Lt. Gen. James A. Abrahamson (USAF Ret.), former chair of the board of directors and former interim executive director at CASIS, manager of the ISS National Lab.
“This is an exciting opportunity for these three college students to work with space industry experts and learn more about this burgeoning community,” he said. “I hope that through this year of learning, each of these students can build knowledge and lasting relationships that will stay with them through their entire professional careers.”
The three students who earned fellowships based on their academic and extracurricular resumes are as follows:
- Taylor Peterson is a graduate researcher at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in her second year working toward a doctorate in aerospace engineering. She is also a flight coach with the Zero-Gravity Corporation and has been flying with them as a researcher since 2018. Peterson’s undergraduate background consists of a bachelor’s degree in physics with extensive experience leading fluid-related research experiments, including multiple microgravity payloads that have flown on both parabolic and suborbital flights. In her time at UCF, Peterson has worked on research involving microfluidic flows in microgravity in relation to osteoporosis in astronauts.
- Harsimran “Hari” Kalsi is a medical student at the Medical College of Wisconsin and the co-founder and CEO of a National Science Foundation I-Corps-supported deep tech startup company called Otto Sciences. At Otto, Kalsi spearheads multiple initiatives with a strong focus on the commercialization of space/LEO. Kalsi is passionate about bringing together the private sector, academia, and government to develop solutions to some of the largest issues facing humanity today, with a particular interest in longevity, neuroprotection, and biostasis.
- Caitlin O’Brien is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University, majoring in astrophysics and astronomy as well as physics. She is an active student researcher in the field of cosmology and is a young professional science educator working at a nonprofit that improves accessibility to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Additionally, O’Brien co-founded a mentorship program to benefit blind and low-vision high school students. She also serves as the president of her university’s astronomical society and is a planetarium presenter.
The fellowship specifically sought U.S. citizens or permanent residents from underrepresented communities, with the goal of ensuring that opportunities within the space industry are available to everyone. Each fellow will receive a one-time award of $5,000 plus reimbursement for authorized sponsored travel expenses.
The fellowship is named after Lt. Gen. James A. Abrahamson (USAF Ret.), who is widely regarded as one of the more distinguished and decorated military program leaders of the 20th century. Lt. Gen. Abrahamson began his military career as a fighter pilot in Vietnam and was ultimately selected for the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program, which was later canceled. After his time as a pilot and astronaut candidate, Lt. Gen. Abrahamson rose through the ranks of the Air Force and NASA, including his assignment as NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Flight.
Additionally, in 1984, President Reagan appointed Lt. Gen. Abrahamson as the first director of the Strategic Defense Initiative—known as the “Star Wars Program”—until he retired from service in 1989. Despite officially retiring, Lt. Gen. Abrahamson has stayed active, maintaining leadership positions within various aviation industry companies and CASIS. For his efforts in promoting NASA’s goal of commercializing space, Lt. Gen. Abrahamson was awarded the NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Medal.
Congratulations to all the James A. Abrahamson Space Leader Fellows. We at the ISS National Lab look forward to our year of working with you.
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About the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory: The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Lab allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the ISS are available to support non-NASA science, technology and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages the ISS National Lab, under Cooperative Agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. To learn more about the ISS National Lab, visit our website.
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