Michelle Brann

Michelle BrannWellesley
Chemistry and Math

Growing up in a small rural town on the coast of Maine, I have always loved spending time outside with nature and star gazing. I remember first being introduced to space and its exploration in high school when I participated in the astronomy event for Science Olympiad. I signed up for this event on a whim unsure of what to expect, but over the course of weekly meetings I became hooked and wanted to learn about these foreign objects in the sky. I continued learning about astronomy through this event for my remaining three high school years. I also studied Delta Cephei, a variable star, for my science fair project.

Leaving my twin brother, parents and the house I grew up in behind, I traveled to Wellesley, Massachusetts, outside of Boston to attend college. I entered college pre-med and a biochemistry major. It wasn’t until after I suffered through cellular physiology and genetics courses with laboratory that that I reaffirmed my love of numbers and equations. Needless to say, I am currently studying chemistry and math. Additionally, throughout my time at Wellesley, I have been involved in independent research in Professor Adele Wolfson’s Lab. I work to understand the complex interactions involving hormones DHT, GnRH as well as Thimet oligopeptidase (TOP), a compound found in high concentrations in prostate cancer cells as these cells change from being androgen responsive to unresponsive over the course of the cancer. I love that small bumps in the road in research can lead to unexpected paths. I am no longer pre-med with plans to pursue graduate school after Wellesley.

When I am not conducting experiments in my research lab, I enjoy spending time outside. I am member of the division III varsity golf team at Wellesley. I use golf as a way to relax from the stressful schoolwork environment as well as learn important time management, leadership and teamwork skills that are applicable to everyday life. I enjoy the close bond I have with my teammates as well as the competing in tournaments. Coming from Maine, I also have a fond appreciation for snow and downhill ski with my family every winter.

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to combine my outside passion, astronomy, with that of my previous lab experience in molecular biology to an intern in Dr. Oana Marcu’s astrobiology lab at NASA Ames Research Center. I can say without any doubt that it was the best summer of my life. I was surprised by how passionate all of the NASA scientists were about their work, specifically my wonderful mentor Oana. The environment fostered a sense of self-discovery. I learned that it is feasible to connect biology and chemistry research with that space to explore fundamental questions and make it possible to search for life elsewhere. I became familiar with the term “astrobiology.” As scary as it sounds, I enjoy studying space from a biological and chemical environment because it makes me realize how small we really are.

I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to return to NASA Ames as part of the NASA Ames Space Academy. I am excited to continue my project in Dr. Oana Marcu’s lab while learning more about the NASA agency in detail. I hope that this summer will confirm that my academic interests can be applied towards a career in the space industry. I look forward to meeting and learning from all of the other research associates and staff members in the Academy.