Bioastronautics—at the interface of biology, medicine, engineering and space research—challenges the state of the art in human protection and integrative physiology.

An astronaut who travels for long periods far from earth is affected by weightlessness, space radiation, and psychological stress, and is utterly dependent on artificial life support. Bones and muscles, cardiovascular regulation, and sensory-motor control depend on gravity on earth and require protection during space flight. The challenge of bioastronautics is to protect the astronaut during and following long flights and to provide air, water, food, and telemedicine while dealing with the scientific issues of gravitational biology.

The MEMP PhD Program at HST can include a Bioastronautics specialization that equips graduate students with skills in space life sciences, aerospace engineering, and space medicine, opening up a broad range of possible career opportunities. The program provides its students with a combination of science and engineering coursework, clinical experiences, space-related research apprenticeships, and thesis research options at MIT, Harvard, and associated hospitals.

Academic Program

MEMP students interested in bioastronautics program may enroll in the following courses. With careful selection, many of these can also fulfill requirements  MEMP curriculum.

  • 16.422 Human Supervisory Control of Automated Systems
  • 16.432J Aerospace Biomedical and Life Support Engineering 
  • 16.453 Human Factors Engineering 
  • 16.851 Introduction to Satellite Engineering
  • 16.853 Advanced Satellite Engineering
  • 16.89J Space Systems Engineering
  • 16.893 Engineering the Space Shuttle
  • 16.895 Engineering Apollo: The Moon Project as a Complex System
  • HST.542J Quantitative and Clinical Physiology
  • HST.560J Radiation Biophysics 
  • HST.971J Strategic Decision Making in Biomedical Enterprise 
  • HST.020 Musculoskeletal Pathophysiology
  • 2.183J Biomechanics and Neural Control of Movement

Students may optionally complete a summer internship at a NASA Center or industry partner. MEMP students specializing in bioastronautics also have the option (space permitting) to use either the Aerospace Medicine Clerkship at Johnson Space Center or the Space Medicine Short Course at University of Texas Medical Branch to fulfill the elective portion of the Introduction to Clinical Medicine and Medical Engineering (HST202).



Applications to the PhD Program in Bioastronautics should be made as part of an application to MEMP and are due by December 1 of each year for the following September.  

Applicants to MEMP/Bioastronautics must meet the general requirements for MEMP applicants, which include a baccalaureate degree in engineering or physical science and demonstration of a sustained interest in applications of engineering and physical science to biology or medicine through courses, research, and/or work experience. In addition, candidates for MEMP/Bioastronautics must have completed at least a bachelor's degree or substantial minor in a related area such as aeronautics and astronautics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, mathematics, or physics, as well as coursework and/or research experiences demonstrating a sustained interest in space life sciences.

Please contact hst-phd-admissions [at] (hst-phd-admissions[at]mit[dot]edu) with any questions about applying to MEMP that are not answered elsewhere on the HST website. 



Bioastronautics students typically pursue their thesis research with one of the Harvard or MIT faculty who are also principal investigators on NASA Life Sciences grants. The following faculty members and research labs are associated with this program; they offer a wide range of opportunties for student research on space life sciences.

lkbarger [at] (Laura Barger, PhD)
Division of Sleep Medicine, HMS
Sleep deprivation

mbouxsei [at] (Mary Bouxsein, PhD)
Bouxsein Lab, Center for Advanced Orthopaedic Studies, BIDMC
Effects of gravity on bone

JCARTREINE [at] (James Cartreine, PhD)
Department of Psychiatry, BWH
Countermeasure for managing interpersonal conflicts in space

caczeisler [at] (Charles Czeisler, MD, PhD) 
Division of Sleep Medicine, HMS 
Sleep medicine; Neurobiology of the human circadian pacemaker

kduda [at] (Kevin Duda, PhD)
Draper Laboratory  
Human-automation interactions; Performance analysis of lunar lander supervisory control

kheld [at] (Kathryn Held, PhD) 
Cellular & Molecular Radiation Oncology Laboratory, MGH  
Radiation biology

jhoffma1 [at] (Jeffrey Hoffman, PhD) 
Human Systems Lab, MIT  
Thermal control during astronaut traverses

faisal_karmali [at] (Faisal Karmali, PhD)  
Jenks Vestibular Lab, MEEI 
Vestibular and visual cues for spatial orientation; Human motion perception in changing gravity levels

ebklerman [at] (Elizabeth Klerman, MD, PhD)  
Division of Sleep Medicine, HMS
Countermeasures to reduce sleep disruption and improve performance and alertness in space

slockley [at] (Steven Lockley, PhD)  
Division of Sleep Medicine, HMS
Light exposure to facilitate circadian adaptation and enhance alertness

coman [at] (Charles Oman, PhD)
Human Systems Lab, MIT 
Robotics operations

lgpeters [at] (Lonnie Petersen, MD, PhD)
Aerospace Physiology Lab (APL), MIT
Cardiovascular, cerebral and exercise physiology 

ASTANKOVIC1 [at] (Aleksandra Stankovic, PhD, MS)
Center for Space Medicine Research (website coming soon - 2.12.2024)
Human health and performance in long-duration spaceflight; terrestrial applications of spaceflight biomedical research

strang [at] (Gary Strangman, PhD)
Neural Systems Group, MGH
Countermeasures for in-flight depression; Distributed system for spaceflight biomedical support

rsummons [at] (Roger Summons, PhD)
Summons Lab; Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, MIT
Geobiology; Astrobiology

cwall [at] (Conrad Wall, PhD)
Jenks Vestibular Lab, MEEI
Vestibular function