Baylor College of Medicine

A view of the planet Earth from space.

TRISH awards three postdoctoral fellowships to further space health

Aaron Nieto


Houston, TX -

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine with consortium partners California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced today the new fellowship cohort of postdoctoral researchers supported by the TRISH Academy of Bioastronautics. The program provides funding for two years, and the virtual academy offers a forum for further career growth.

“Cultivating the next generation of space health researchers is one of our strategic goals,” said Dr. Dorit Donoviel, TRISH executive director and associate professor in Baylor’s Center for Space Medicine. “We aim to prepare a diverse workforce from a variety of scientific backgrounds to help us solve the challenges facing space explorers on future missions to the Moon and beyond. We are thrilled to welcome this next batch of postdocs as they help bring us closer to that goal.”

These fellows join a cohort of more than 20 previously supported TRISH postdoctoral researchers. In addition to research funding, fellows receive mentorship from experienced faculty members, connections to space flight experts and the opportunity to expand their network and their project’s reach.  

"My career was launched with a fellowship from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI), the predecessor to TRISH, so I greatly appreciate the value of mentorship and community to those starting out in the field of space biomedical research,” said Dr. Jeffrey Willey, associate professor of radiation oncology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Willey mentors TRISH fellows in the human health challenges for deep space exploration.

This year’s postdoctoral fellows are:

Xu Cao, Ph.D.
Identifying Genetic Factors in Radiation Injury with Pooled Single Cell Sequencing
Mentor: Joseph C. Wu, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University
Astronauts’ hearts can be damaged by high-energy space radiation-induced heart inflammation and fibrosis (scar formation). This study aims to find out how and which inheritable/genetic factors may affect people’s susceptibility to space radiation to better predict the risk of heart diseases in astronauts and design personalized drugs.

Ashley Nemec-Bakk, Ph.D.
The Use of Two New Ground-based Models of Deep Space Travel to Study the Role of Mitochondria and Oxidative Stress in Cardiovascular Effects
Mentor: Marjan Boerma, Ph.D., University of Arkansas, Little Rock
Utilizing two new ground-based models of deep space travel, Dr. Nemec-Bakk will study the effects of radiation and microgravity on form and function of the heart, major arteries and vasculature of the eye in male and female mice.

David Temple, Ph.D.
Systematically Assessment of Noisy Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation as a Sensorimotor Countermeasure
Mentor: Torin K. Clark, Ph.D., University of Colorado, Boulder
This study explores whether noisy galvanic vestibular stimulation (nGVS), where small amounts of electrical noise are delivered to the inner ear, can serve as a countermeasure to mitigate sensorimotor disruptions experienced by astronauts during gravity transitions via a phenomenon known as stochastic resonance.

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health is backed by NASA’s Human Research Program with a mission, in part, to support the upcoming Artemis missions, which aim to put the first woman and first person of color on the moon. The institute funds innovative and disruptive research that can improve and protect the health and safety of humans, wherever they explore.

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