Purdue University student Brandon Coats is getting first-hand knowledge of the human spaceflight program this summer. He is one of 18 students selected to work with scientists at NASA through a National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) internship.
Coats, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, is assigned to the Cardiovascular Laboratory at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), in Houston, where he is working on a project related to heart function and spaceflight. In the project, he uses ultrasound to noninvasively measure the motion of the heart as it beats, before and after adaptation to space.
The work at NASA will provide new insights to Coats for use in his in Ph.D. project at Purdue, where he is developing a blood pump for people with a life-threatening heart condition. “The experience at JSC is giving me a new perspective on the cardiovascular system that will serve to increase both my knowledge and practice of cardiovascular research now and in the years to come,” Coats said.
The Georgetown, Ind., native graduated from Floyd Central High School in 2003. Coats received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Louisville in 2008. While completing his undergraduate work, Coats developed a cardiovascular model of astronauts as an extracurricular research project. He is the son of Dana Fay Coats and the grandson of Vernon Wayne Coats.
NSBRI’s summer internship program gives selected students an opportunity to spend 10-to-15 weeks working on projects with scientists at JSC and NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. With the addition of this year’s class, more than 100 students have now participated in this highly competitive program.
“The summer internship program allows talented students such as Brandon to learn about research for human spaceflight and how these efforts benefit health care on Earth,” said Dr. Jeffrey Sutton, NSBRI director.
NSBRI, funded by NASA, is a consortium of institutions studying the health risks related to long-duration spaceflight. The Institute’s science, technology, and education projects take place at more than 60 institutions across the United States.
NSBRI projects address space health concerns, which include bone and muscle loss, cardiovascular changes, radiation exposure, neurobehavioral and psychosocial factors, remote medical care and research capabilities, and habitability and performance issues such as sleep cycles and lunar dust exposure. Research findings also impact the understanding and treatment of similar medical conditions experienced on Earth.