Sharmila Bhattacharya is the principal investigator for the space shuttle flight experiment, Fly Immunity and Tumors (FIT), which flew on STS-121 on July 4, 2006.
The experiment was completed successfully with samples returned in excellent condition. She and her team are currently analyzing the flight and ground data relating to immune changes induced by spaceflight. She holds master’s and doctorate degrees in molecular biology from Princeton University and has conducted post-doctoral research in neurobiology at Stanford University.
Left: Sharmila Bhattacharya
In addition, Bhattacharya is the principal investigator for the Biomodel Performance and Behavior Laboratory in the NASA Ames Space Biosciences Division. She now is on a temporary assignment, serving as a special assistant to NASA Ames’ center director.
In 1999, Bhattacharya moved to NASA Ames and supported space shuttle flight science missions including STS-106. She also served as the lead scientist for the ‘Insect Habitat,’ a collaborative effort by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, and she developed a habitat for the International Space Station. Bhattacharya has served as chief scientist and science advisory council member for astrobionics, helping develop science payloads for free-flyer and nanosatellites. She was the acting project manager for small payloads flying on Progress and Soyuz (Russian spacecraft) and space shuttle missions. Bhattacharya has won many awards, including when she worked as a Lockheed-Martin employee at NASA Ames. In 2003 she was awarded Lockheed Martin’s most prestigious agency-wide award, the Nova Award for Technical Excellence, as well as the Top Flight award. Subsequently she joined the NASA civil service.
Bhattacharya taught astronauts the "principles of spaceflight effects on living organisms" when she was a faculty member at the Marine Biological Laboratories’ summer course in Woods Hole, Mass. in 2004.
Her research at NASA has involved studying immune system changes during spaceflight and the effects of radiation and altered gravity on living systems. While at NASA Ames, in addition to conducting her own research, she has been involved in developing small science payloads and integrating experiments into flight hardware for the space shuttle, the International Space Station and small satellites.
Links to relevant URLs:
Bhattacharya describes the laboratory at NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida, set up to analyze the flies upon their return to Earth.
Who I am and what I do:
"The Fruit Fly in You" article from science at NASA:
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.