Women in Space: Astronaut Kate Rubins and her Work in Biology

Edited by Jasmine Ryu Won Kang

During the 2020 American presidential election, votes came in from many citizens living outside of the country. None traveled quite as far as the vote of Dr. Kathleen "Kate" Rubins, who is currently aboard the International Space Station some 200 miles above the Earth. This is the second time that Dr. Rubins has sent her ballot in from space, and her work with NASA is definitely worth exploring fully, especially considering the election is past but Dr. Rubins continues to research.


From the International Space Station: I voted today— Kate Rubins pic.twitter.com/DRdjwSzXwy

— NASA Astronauts (@NASA_Astronauts) October 22, 2020


Dr. Rubins is from Connecticut and was raised in California, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology from the University of California, San Diego. She went on to receive a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from Stanford University's Medical School in 2005. Dr. Rubins studied HIV-1 integration and went on to develop the first model of smallpox infection. She worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a Principal Investigator for the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research to study poxviruses and pathogens. 

NASA selected Rubins for their 2009 class. She completed her first flight on Expedition 48/49, off Earth for 115 days. The expeditions completed more than 275 different scientific experiments, and Dr. Rubins was the first person ever to sequence DNA in space. She matched this feat by growing heart cells in a cell culture while in orbit. Dr. Rubins has cumulatively completed 12 hours and 46 minutes of spacewalk, during which she successfully maintained the external systems of the ISS. 

Dr. Rubins is currently serving a second mission aboard the ISS, scheduled to last 6 months. None of this work stops Dr. Rubins for casting her ballot, nor has it slowed her steady work not only in the field of biology but in paving the way for women in all fields of STEM.