When did you know that you wanted to become an astronaut?
In Their Own Words: Kathleen (Kate) Rubins
From as young as I can remember I wanted to be, in order, an astronaut, a geologist, and a biologist. My early impression was that one had to be a pilot, so my goal was to become a fighter pilot and apply to be an astronaut from that route. However, I started working on public health prevention of HIV in high school and attended a conference on DNA at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. I became fascinated with molecular biology and viruses and have been going along that path for the last 15 years.
What was it that inspired this goal and what steps did you take to get there?
I was inspired growing up by learning the constellations with my dad and going to local “star-gazing” parties and science museums in the (San Francisco) Bay Area, California. I was the one with a subscription to Sky and Telescope magazine as a kid while my friends were reading Tiger Beat. I’ve always been fascinated with science and exploring our world, from microbes to the solar system. When I decided to focus on viruses, I majored in Molecular Biology at the University of California-San Diego, working at the Salk Institute on HIV, and then I got my PhD at Stanford, studying smallpox and ebola virus in the Biosafety Level 4 labs at the Centers for Disease Control and the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. I started my research group at the Whitehead Institute/Massachusetts Institute of Technology to continue research on related viruses and have been fortunate enough to take our exploration of virus systems to some interesting places, like the heart of the rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I haven’t really taken specific steps, but rather, found a passion and pursued it.
What was your reaction to hearing that you were selected?
I was a bit stunned, humbled and overwhelmed. There were so many truly amazing candidates during the interview process; I was counting myself lucky just to get to interact with them. I’m very excited to start the training; I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work over the next two years, but I’m looking forward to diving right in. I think this is a thrilling time to be part of the space program, and I feel very fortunate to be starting as an Astronaut Candidate at this particular time.
What are some of your hobbies, interests and special talents?
Scuba diving, triathlons -- I was on the Stanford Triathlon team, currently race sprint and Olympic distance but am training for a half ironman, and running/marathons. I’m involved with health care/medical supply delivery to Africa and started a non-profit organization to bring supplies to Congo. My recent pursuits involve flying airplanes and jumping out of them -- not simultaneously. I’ve been doing some skydiving; my husband and I are working on our United States Parachute Association’s (USPA) “A” licenses so we can do solo jumps. I also really enjoy flying and am currently working toward my private pilot license. My lab website and additional material is available at: