West U’s Poplack Interns With Space Research Institute
Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University student Samara Poplack is getting first-hand knowledge of the human spaceflight program this summer. Poplack, a West U. resident, is one of 18 students selected to work with scientists at NASA through a National Space Biomedical Research Institute internship.
Poplack, who is pursuing a medical degree and a master of business administration in the dual-degree program at BCM and Rice, is assigned to the Neuroautonomic Laboratory at NASA Johnson Space Center, in Houston. She is working with scientists on a project that seeks to increase the ability to detect dangerous heart conditions, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, that might otherwise be missed during astronaut screening.
In addition to the experience in research, Poplack said her time at JSC has left a lasting impression on her.
“Things that would be incredibly unusual anywhere else happen every day here,” she said. “For instance, the other day I was eating lunch outside, and I looked over and saw the Lunar Rover being tested only 200 yards away.”
Poplack graduated from The Kinkaid School in Houston and received her bachelor’s degree from Williams College in Massachusetts. She is slated to graduate from the Baylor and Rice dual-degree program in 2011. She is the daughter of David and June Poplack.
NSBRI’s summer internship program gives selected students an opportunity to spend 10-to-15 weeks working on projects with scientists at JSC or NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. With the addition of this year’s class, more than 100 students have now participated in this highly competitive program.
“The summer internship program allows talented students such as Samara to learn about research for human spaceflight and how these efforts benefit health care on Earth,” said Jeffrey Sutton, NSBRI director.
NSBRI, funded by NASA, is a consortium of institutions studying the health risks related to long-duration spaceflight. The Institute’s science, technology and education projects take place at more than 60 institutions across the United States.
NSBRI projects address space health concerns, which include bone and muscle loss, cardiovascular changes, radiation exposure, neurobehavioral and psychosocial factors, remote medical care and research capabilities, 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.