When did you know that you wanted to become an astronaut?
In Their Own Words: Serena M. Aunon
I knew when I saw my first shuttle launch as a kid in elementary school. Let's face it, the Shuttle is a wonderfully complex and beautiful vehicle. It's hard not to be inspired by its sheer power.
What was it that inspired this goal and what steps did you take to get there?
I always enjoyed science while growing up which led to the decision to enter an electrical engineering curriculum at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Midway through my undergraduate training, I was exposed to wonderful physicians in my hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado. It may be difficult to see a connection between engineering and medicine, but both require that you examine problems from all angles and reason through multiple solutions. I also saw what a difference you could make in a person's life during a particularly difficult time. I made the decision to enter medical school and loved every minute of it. You quickly realize how much trust people place in you when you assume responsibility for their medical care. While going through medical school, I knew I still wanted to work for NASA and discovered that the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas offered a combined residency program in Internal Medicine and Aerospace Medicine. This was the track for me! I spent 6 years at UTMB and was soon hired on as a flight surgeon serving NASA under the UTMB/Wyle Bioastronautics contract. I spent several months in Russia supporting ISS crews during their training. It was a great time to learn what an astronaut's life would be like while training for long-duration missions aboard ISS. Most important is that the decisions I made in my professional career were not toward a specific goal but because I loved what I was doing at the time.
What was your reaction to hearing that you were selected?
I actually screamed inside my car...good thing it's fairly soundproof! Then I called my family immediately... :)
What are some of your hobbies, interests and special talents?
I love to play basketball, softball, and cricket! I also enjoy hiking at home in the mountains of Colorado and jet-skiing in the Galveston surf.