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.

HST’s PhD Program in Bioastronautics prepares graduate students in space life sciences, aerospace engineering and space medicine for 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 who wish to affiliate with the Bioastronautics program must complete the following requirements in addition to the regular MEMP curriculum.

  • HST 515J Aerospace Biomedical Engineering 
  • 16.453 Human Factors Engineering 
  • 16.89J Space Systems Engineering OR 16.851 Satellite Engineering

And at least one subject from the following list: 

  • HST 560J Radiation Biophysics 
  • HST 971J Strategic Decision Making in Biomedical Enterprise 
  • HST 020 Musculoskeletal Pathophysiology
  • 2.183J/9.34J Biomechanics and Neural Control of Movement

Students in the program may optionally complete a summer apprenticeship at a NASA Center. Students 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).

For more information about the Bioastronautics curriculum, please contact dnewman [at] mit.edu (Professor Dava Newman).

Admissions

Applications to the PhD Program in Bioastronautics should be made as part of an application to MEMP and are due by December 15 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] mit.edu for information about applying to MEMP or dnewman [at] mit.edu (Professor Dava Newman), Program Director, for information regarding the Bioastronautics academic program. 

 

Research

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] hms.harvard.edu (Laura Barger, PhD)
Division of Sleep Medicine, HMS
Sleep deprivation

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

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

rjcohen [at] mit.edu (Richard Cohen, MD, PhD)
Cohen Lab, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, MIT 
Effects of micro-gravity on cardiovascular stability

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

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

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

jhoffma1 [at] mit.edu (Jeffrey Hoffman, PhD) 
Man Vehicle Laboratory, MIT  
Thermal control during astronaut traverses

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

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

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

JLOEFFLER [at] mgh.harvard.edu (Jay Loeffler, MD)  
Radiation Oncology, MGH
Radiation biology

rgmark [at] mit.edu (Roger Mark, MD, PhD)
Laboratory for Computational Physiology, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, MIT
Computational models of cardiovascular function; Clinical decision support care

dan_merfeld [at] meei.harvard.edu (Daniel Merfeld, PhD)  
Jenks Vestibular Lab, MEEI 
Vestibular thresholds, including psychophysical response dynamics

dnewman [at] mit.edu (Dava Newman, PhD)  
Man Vehicle Laboratory, MIT
Extra-vehicular activities; Bio-suits; Micro-gravity

coman [at] mit.edu (Charles Oman, PhD)
Man Vehicle Laboratory, MIT 
Robotics operations

divieti [at] helix.mgh.harvard.edu (Paola Divieti Pajevic, MD, PhD)
Divieti-Pajevic Laboratory, Molecular and Cell Biology, Boston University 
Bone metabolism

leia [at] mit.edu (Leia Stirling, PhD)
Man Vehicle Laboratory, MIT
Computational dynamics; System automation; Human factors; Experimental biomechanics; Human-machine interaction for aerospace and medical applications

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

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

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

lry [at] mit.edu (Laurence Young, PhD)
Man Vehicle Laboratory, MIT
Artificial gravity; Sensorimotor displays and controls for lunar landing