Kayla LaFrance

University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND

Space Studies

Principal Investigator: Dr. Carol Stoker

Education and Experience:

My passion for space exploration has played a large role in shaping my life. Ever since I was a young girl I dreamed of flying around the galaxy with Captain Picard and Captain Janeway. My love of Star Trek led to a love of astronomy and exploration. I became actively involved with local astronomy clubs, traveled the US attending Space Camps and national Astronomy League conventions, and spent a large majority of my time participating in extracurricular activities relating to the STEM fields.

My undergraduate education was from Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. I earned a B.S. in Engineering Physics and minors in Math and Public Relations. While at Belmont I participated in the school’s Mathematical Association of America (MAA) chapter and the Society of Physics Students (SPS) chapter. In my senior year I served as the Vice-President for SPS, and my favorite event every year was Pi–a-Prof Day, a celebration of Pi day (3-14) where the SPS would offer the student body a chance to throw a pie in the face of a physics professor for a dollar. For my participation in the Belmont Undergrad Research Symposium 2009, I did a study on Asteroid Photometry with 201 Penelope. By far my most memorable research project while at Belmont was when the SPS created the Belmont Mythbusters, and we took a look at the physics of Batman from the movie “The Dark Knight” and offered the presentation as a convocation to the student body.

I recently graduated from the University of North Dakota earning a Master’s of Science in Space Studies. My independent research while at UND was devoted to the organization of Mission Control during manned surface exploration of Mars. I am fascinated by mission operations and I dream of going to Mars. I really enjoyed the topic and research and I hope to continue focusing on the topic in the future.


While my main interest is astronomy and space exploration I do have a few other hobbies on the side to keep me busy. When I need a break from reality I turn to comic books and drawing, Batman is the only superhero for me. On days I feel the need to keep my hand busy I turn to my car. I love working under the hood of vehicles and getting grease under my nails. My “baby” is a 1930 Ford Model AA flatbed. Last but not least would by my obsessive love of Ice Hockey, it keeps my heart beating. I play both goalie and left wing, I have earned my referee stripes, I volunteer helping little 5 years olds get into the game, and I cheer rather loudly no matter where I end up watching a game.

Future Plans:

I have many goals for the future all culminating with becoming an astronaut and walking on Mars. Until that day comes though, there are a few things I would like to do first. Mainly, continue my education to earn a PhD in Bioastronautics and to begin a career working with NASA to help lead the way to sending manned missions to Mars.