Deniz Melissa Burnham
Deniz Burnham was selected by NASA to join the 2021 Astronaut Candidate Class. She reports for duty in January 2022. A former intern at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, Burnham is a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and serves in the Navy Reserves. She holds degrees in chemical and mechanical engineering and is an experienced leader in the energy industry where she managed onsite drilling projects and emissions reductions strategies throughout North America, including in Canada, Texas, and Alaska.
Born at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, Burnham frequently moved as a result of being raised in a military family. She resided in Wasilla, Alaska, at the time of her selection as a NASA astronaut candidate. Her parents are Sahver Burnham of Fairfield, California, and Ed Burnham (deceased). Burnham enjoys flying as a private pilot and holds helicopter, fixed wing (land and sea), and instrument ratings. She also flies paramotors and paragliders. She and her fiancé, Shaun Little, enjoy exploring the outdoors and riding motorcycles.
Graduated Vanden High School in Fairfield, California. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of California, San Diego, in 2007. Earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in 2017.
Burnham is a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and serves in the Navy Reserves as the executive officer of SurgeMain Alameda, a Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) reserve unit supporting Naval shipyard operations in Alameda, California. At time of her selection as a NASA astronaut candidate, Burnham had spent more than a decade in the energy industry where she managed drilling optimization projects and emission reduction strategies for drilling rigs. She began her career as a field engineer on a remote oil rig in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and as a lead field engineer, she was responsible for all aspects of the measurement and logging while drilling operations at drilling rig sites throughout the Arctic. In 2011, Burnham was selected for a 15-month intensive training and evaluation program in preparation for an on-site leadership position as a drilling well site leader where she trained in various locations throughout Wyoming and Texas. She went on to lead onsite operations for about nine years on drilling rigs in Canada, Ohio, and Texas.
As a graduate student at USC, Burnham completed an internship with the NASA Ames Research Center as part of the Deployable Autonomy Technologies group.
Burnham reported for duty in January 2022 to complete two years of initial astronaut training as a NASA astronaut candidate.