After finishing her neurobiology studies at Harvard, Eglė Čekanavičiūtė earned her PhD in neuroscience at Stanford university. At first, she conducted in-depth research related to human immune system and inflammatory processes. Nowadays, she is mostly devoted to getting people away from the Earth: at NASA, she is researching how spending time in space affects the human body.
Eglė Čekanavičiūtė is a Principal Investigator and Research Scientist in the Radiation Biophysics Laboratory, Space Biosciences Research Branch at NASA Ames. She is an interdisciplinary biologist, combining experimental and computational approaches to develop and analyze in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo models of the central nervous system and the immune system. Her main research interests are understanding and mitigating the neuroimmune and neurovascular impairments caused by deep space radiation, which is a major astronaut health risk in lunar and Mars exploration.
One of the most recent project is developing high-throughput 3D human organ-on-a-chip models to investigate the effects of spaceflight and ionizing radiation on the brain and the blood-brain barrier. Eglė also supports the NASA GeneLab project and collaborates with other researchers in the Space Biosciences Research Branch. In addition, she is one of the organizers of the STAR: Spaceflight Technologies, Application and Research intensive training program for training investigators in space biology and in preparing spaceflight experiments.
She has published over 20 articles, and has received scholarships and awards while studying at Harvard and Stanford. Later on, she also earned NASA Ames Safety Award and NASA Ames Honor Group Award for MVP-FLY-01 Team in 2018, as well as Radiation Research Society Early Career Investigator Award in 2019. Eglė Čekanavičiūtė is a part of Science Activation and Citizen Science Point of Contact for Biological and Physical Sciences Division. She is involved in bringing science to the general public, participating in science fairs, and is committed to teaching and mentoring students, especially ones from lower-income households.
From an interview at pasauliolietuvis.lt:
“I’d fly to Mars at any cost – even if it was one-way flight – only if someone would take me. But it’s just around ten out of eighteen thousand people that are accepted for such missions so this will probably remain an unfulfillable dream (although, I will of course never cease submitting applications). So instead, I’d love to spend my whole life helping others fly there and, hopefully, return more or less healthy.”
Photo sources: NASA||VU