NASA flight engineer Kathleen “Kate” Rubins set out on her fourth career spacewalk on Friday, in an effort to ready the International Space Station (ISS) for solar array upgrades.
Rubins, 42, was born in Farmington, Connecticut in 1978, but was raised in Napa, the heart of California’s Wine Country.
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After graduating from Vintage High School in 1996, Rubins received a Bachelor of Science degree in molecular biology from the University of California, San Diego just three years later.
In 2005, Rubins earned a doctorate in cancer biology from Stanford University’s Medical School Biochemistry Department and Microbiology and Immunology Department.
There, she and colleagues from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed the first model of smallpox infection in addition to a complete map of the poxvirus transcriptome.
She also studied virus-host interactions using both in-vitro and animal model systems.
After her time and Stanford, Rubins began as a fellow/principal Investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.
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At MIT, Rubin headed a lab of 14 researchers studying viral diseases that impact Central and West Africa and traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to conduct further research and supervise study sites.
Her lab focused on poxviruses, host-pathogen interaction, and viral mechanisms for regulating host cell mRNA transcription, translation and decay.
Rubin also worked on collaborative projects with the Army to develop therapies for Ebola and Lassa viruses.
In the summer of 2009, she was selected by NASA as one of the nine chosen members of the 20th NASA astronaut class.
She received extensive training and instruction in ISS systems, spacewalks, robotics, physiological training, T 38 flight training, and water and wilderness survival training.
During her first spaceflight on Expedition 48/49 in July 2016, Rubins became the first person to sequence DNA in space and the crew of the expeditions conducted or participated in more than 275 different experiments.
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Rubins also grew heart cells, or cardiomyocytes, in cell culture and performed quantitative, real-time PCR and microbiome experiments while in orbit.
The veteran astronaut is serving aboard the ISS on a six-month mission as a flight engineer for the Expedition 63/64 crew.