Indian American astronaut Sirisha Bandla joins Kalpana Chawla Project

Five top young Indian scholars graduate from 2021 Space Studies Program (SSP) of International Space University

As UN celebrates “Women in Space” during World Space Week (Oct. 4-10), Indian American astronaut Sirisha Bandla has joined board of advisers of the Kalpana Chawla Project for Innovation, Entrepreneurism and Space Studies.

The Kalpana Chawla project at the International Space University has been established to honor the Karnal, India, born Dr. Kalpana Chawla, the first woman of Indian descent to go to space, who died in Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.

The project is focused on developing strong technical and leadership qualities with talented Indian women.

Read: Sirisha Bandla becomes third Indian American space woman (July 12, 2021)

“I am honored to join the Board of Advisors of the The Kalpana Chawla Project. Dr. Kalpana Chawla was not only a great inspiration for me, but also for millions of other young Indian women and girls,” stated Bandla in an ISU press release.

“This year’s UN World Space Week is particularly relevant because it celebrates the importance of women in space,” added Bandla who flew on the Virgin Galactic Unity 22 mission to become the second India-born woman to go to space.

Born in Guntur, India, Bandla moved to the US, where she eventually attended university and graduated with a BS in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University, and an MBA from George Washington University.

She’s the Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations for Virgin Galactic, where she has worked since 2015.

Bandla also announced the graduation of five top scholars from 2021 Space Studies Program (SSP) at the ISU. They are:

Richal Abhang: Richal works as a mechanical engineering student where her task is to design and manufacture prototypes including seismic vibration isolation and dampening systems.

It includes mathematical modelling, CAD, FEA, Manufacturing and Experimentation. She is inclined more towards technical aspects of work and studies. A researcher who enjoys hands-on work and counts physics and fluid mechanics among her favorite subjects.

Sucheshna Patil; An Engineer, Patil has a Masters & Bachelor of Engineering in Biotechnology Degree with experience at reputed Research Institutes as MD Anderson Cancer Center, Methodist Research Institute, TTU Center for Biotechnology & Genomics with focus on Molecular biology, Stem Cell culture, Cloning, Protein expression, Antibody Validation & Optimization, IHC, and Multiplex IF.

Dr. Saswati Das: Das is an MD Biochemist from India. As a medical specialist she oversees a broad portfolio of chemical pathology diagnostics, molecular medicine, and quality management.

In addition to her role as a specialist, she has spearheaded Covid-19 response efforts by advocating the development of evidence-informed testing strategy, participating in webinars as a subject matter expert, and capacity building by training laboratory personnel.

She completed her bachelor’s in medicine and surgery and her Doctorate in Medicine from the University of Delhi.

Thereafter she trained in Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, New York USA, and Royal Free Hospital, NHS UK as an international fellow. She has authored many publications on healthcare quality assurance, CAD, biomarkers, and COVID-19.

Her research interests are Cardiac Biochemistry, Prenatal Screening, Neonatal screening, Radiation Biochemistry, Space Medicine, Nutrition Biochemistry, Multi-Omics, and Risk Management.

Read: Indian American Sirisha Bandla set to fly off into space on July 11 (July 5, 2021)

Monica Ekal: A PhD student at Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon, Portugal, Ekal is researching dynamic uncertainty reduction for on-orbit free-flyer operations. Skilled in robot estimation, trajectory planning, and control, she has five years of experience in designing algorithms for aerial and space robots, including at EPFL (Lausanne), and MIT (Boston).

Her work has been tested on NASA’s Astrobee robotic platform onboard the International Space Station.

Dr. Garima Patel: A Senior Physiotherapist with 8+ years of clinical experience in neurological rehabilitation, Patel is the founder director of Movement Inspirant Pvt. Ltd. and currently involved in research related to functional recovery after spinal cord injury and stroke.

Her research interests also include effects of altered gravity on the human body, exercise countermeasures and Women’s Health in space. She is an alumnus of AIIPMR and SVNIRTAR (pioneer institutes of physiotherapy in India).

Since 2017, the Dr. KC Scholars has been funding young Indian women of talent to attend the ISU. There has been a total of 16 KC Scholars to date.

Read: Sirisha Bandla: The third Indian-American woman to fly into space (July 12, 2021)

The goal is to attract talented Indian women who are postgraduate students with backgrounds in science, medicine, materials, arts, policy, business management, satellite technology, and other space-related areas of focus, who also share Dr. Chawla’s selfless and passionate pursuit of education and excellence, ISU said.

Since its founding in 1987, ISU has graduated more than 5200 students from over 110 countries.

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