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Newly minted NASA astronaut candidate and UNC Marine Sciences graduate Zena Cardman remarks on her time at UNC, as a member of the (Andreas) Teske Lab and the path from the University of North Carolina to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Zena Cardman at Charcot in Antartica

Zena Cardman:

“I found my niche when I found the Teske Lab and Marine Sciences at UNC.  Dr. Teske was on sabbatical at the time, so I first met him as a voice over the phone.  I was so enthralled by the unseen world of microorganisms, making a living in complete darkness at the bottom of the sea.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to join the lab.

Marine Sciences became home for my academic coming-of-age. It was home while I grew up from wide-eyed undergraduate to graduate student, over more than half a decade. I am eternally grateful for the mentor-ship and support from Dr. Teske and the other Marine Sciences faculty and staff.

The department became home in a more personal sense, too – many of my lab-mates and classmates are my closest friends. They’ve been colleagues, housemates, inspiration, and confidantes for all the highs and lows of my time in Chapel Hill. I still call it the Teske Lab Family. To all of you: thank you. You will be with me in spirit as I start this new adventure as an Astronaut.”

Andreas Teske (Zena’s faculty advisor and head of the Teske lab) had this to say about his former student:

“When Zena joined my lab in search of interesting research experience, she entered a “danger zone” of students who not only tolerated but loved extreme microbial habitats on and in the seafloor, and their weird inhabitants. Zena started to work on Guaymas Basin, a hydrothermal spreading center in the Gulf of California that harbors many novel and extreme types of hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms. Very quickly, Zena turned out to be a top student with wide-ranging research interests in extreme microbiology and Astrobiology; she immersed herself in microbial research endeavors of many flavors to experience the intellectual and practical challenges and rewards that this field has to offer. Although Zena was technically an undergraduate, at least before starting her Masters thesis in 2012, she became an indispensable mentor and also a coauthor to many students in my lab. Zena’s energetic, engaged research and mentoring style was more than matched by her enthusiasm for all things microbial, primordial, extreme and extraterrestrial. During her years at UNC, Zena was the true keeper of the flame for astrobiology, and certainly spread the word among undergraduates and graduate students alike (with consequences; one of my previous graduate students subsequently secured NC Space grant funding). Upon graduation in June 2014, Zena presented me with the most amazing book of planetary landscapes, all of them real –– all taken by space probes and landers that have traversed the solar system. Naturally, Mars is represented with wonderful images; and I expect to see Zena one day in person walking through one of these epic vistas on the Red Planet!”

Teske lab photo with Zena Cardman in the center, ca. 2009/2010. From left to right: undergrad Charlie Martin [now USGS], undergrad Vincent Klokman [Medical School in the Netherlands], Zena Cardman, [former grad student now a NASA astronaut candidate] Luke McKay [now postdoc at Montana State Univ] and undergrad Erick Dowell [well-published lab alumnus].

Read the full article by Mary Lide Parker for Endeavors on Zena Cardman and NASA’s announcement including her in the new incoming class of astronaut candidates (click here).

Check out the UNC article “Tar Heel selected for NASA’s new astronaut class” by clicking here

UNC’s Well Said spotlights Zena Cardman about her future as a potential astronaut.

For more about UNC Marine Sciences alum Zena Cardman go to NASA’s website to view her astronaut candidate profile.

The Herald-Sun talked to Zena and others within UNC about her selection.

NPR talked to a member of NASA’s new class of astronaut candidates.

Mashable interview of UNC graduate and new NASA astronaut candidate Zena Cardman.

Science Friday coverage of NASA’s announcement of the new class of astronaut candidates.

WRAL report on the news of NASA’s new astronaut candidates.

Article by the University of North Carolina: Tar Heel Selected For NASA’s New Astronaut Class.

CNBC article by Marguerite Ward: Meet the 12 Americans training to be NASA’s newest astronauts.

An article by Brit + Co introduces Zena Cardman in a roundup of NASA’s female astronaut candidates.

UNC Marine Sciences graduate in new class of NASA astronauts - Zena Cardman

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