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Career Profiles

Katie Harris (she/her)

Medical Student/Prospective Aerospace Medicine Specialist
Katie Harris essayant une combinaison spatiale de simulation au Centre européen des astronautes.

Katie Harris trying out a simulated space suit at the European Astronaut Centre.

Katie Harris essayant une combinaison spatiale de simulation au Centre européen des astronautes.

Katie Harris trying out a simulated space suit at the European Astronaut Centre.

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I am working towards a career as an aerospace medicine specialist - a doctor who works with astronauts and keeps them healthy for long missions!

About me

I was born/grew up in: I was born in St John's, NL and grew up there.

I now live in:  I still spend quite some time in St John's for medical school, but also do rotations in other Maritime Provinces.

I completed my training/education at:  I completed my Honours Bachelor of Science in Astrophysics at the University of Toronto (Trinity College). I then completed my Master of Science in Space Studies at the International Space University in France. I'm currently working on my Doctor of Medicine degree from Memorial University, and plan to graduate in 2023.

What I do at work

I am working towards my medical degree. This involves spending my days learning clinically. I learn from other students, resident physicians and staff physicians. This is the "learning by doing" part of my training, and I'm really enjoying it! We work on applying all the knowledge we gained in the first two years of medical school to patients. This requires integrating theoretical knowledge with practical management.

I am also working on a team with the European Space Agency. We are studying the problem of blood clots in space. I am also doing research on human performance in space and medical device development with MGH/Harvard. Then I teach what I have learned to other students at the International Space University.

In terms of my aerospace work, I come home from my clinical day and then spend time calling my collaborators and supervisors in Europe and the USA. This is done to keep in touch and to discuss how our projects are going. We work at developing new ideas and then test them in clinical trials. After we have analyzed our results, we publish our work in scientific journals. This process can take many years! Between doing my clinical learning and my aerospace work, I get to apply a lot of the medical knowledge that I have gained so far. I also get to develop the teamwork and leadership skills that I have worked on since high school.

My career path is

I was always interested in space!  I first planned to be an academic in the physical sciences. I always did well in school, especially physics/math/calculus, but also in English. I loved my astrophysics degree and the people I met during this time. I  was able to get a social science minor (Anthropology) which I thoroughly enjoyed.

However, I realized that I wanted to be more of a generalist than an expert in one field.  I also realized that I really wanted to feel like my work would help others. This led me to medicine. My Master's degree exposed me to all the ways I could engage with space through medicine.  I've been sold on working on enabling the future of human spaceflight ever since!

I am motivated by

I am motivated by pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and human reach! It’s great to be helping improve life on Earth through my work in aerospace. Many of the things we develop for space can support people in remote communities. This is especially true from a medical standpoint. For example, if you can treat someone with an illness on the ISS, you can treat someone in a fly-in fly-out community on Earth.

It’s great to be part of developing and testing technology that will help people travel in space. By also having a foot in the clinical world, I believe that I can help extend the value of spaceflight to life on the ground.

How I affect peoples’ lives

I am endlessly inspired by space and space exploration. The bravery and ingenuity of human beings, who explore places that are not designed for us, is very inspiring! Helping space agencies find ways to make human spaceflight safer is very motivating. Meanwhile, learning to act as a clinician "on the ground" provides me with an opportunity to serve others. I love that I get to help others improve their health, and contribute to society in a meaningful way.

Outside of work I

I love endurance running, sailing, skiing (downhill and cross country), and SCUBA diving outside of work. I am also a private pilot but have not had much time to fly recently! Anything that has an adventure element to it, I tend to enjoy. It makes me feel one step closer to space!

My advice to others

Find a mentor! There are many ways to engage in aerospace. You can do the humanities, you can be a space lawyer, an engineer, a musician, or a businessperson. You can basically find any career and make it a space career! Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) is a great resource to get started. Look to your local college or university to find someone connected to the aerospace world. Finally, the Canadian Space Agency has lots of great resources for students of every age, which I highly recommend.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Literature and language arts
  • Math
  • Foods & Nutrition
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Music
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Enjoyed doing things on my own
  • Played on a sports team
  • Was motivated by success
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Liked reading
  • Liked to take things apart to see how they worked
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
  • Liked to design or build things
  • Learned best “by doing”

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