Whitehead Connects: Kathleen "Kate" Rubins
Date Time Location
September 12th, 2017 5:30pm-7:30pm Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, 455 Main St, Cambridge, MA 02142
David C. Page, MD, Director
Whitehead Institute

Maria T. Zuber, PhD, Vice President for Research and E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Kathleen "Kate" Rubins, PhD, NASA Astronaut

For more information, contact Meg Breithaupt at breithaupt@wi.mit.edu or 617-258-5489.

Speaker Bios

Kathleen "Kate" Rubins, NASA Astronaut
Dr. Kathleen "Kate" Rubins conducted her undergraduate research on HIV-1 integration in the Infectious Diseases Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. She analyzed the mechanism of HIV integration, including several studies of HIV-1 Integrase inhibitors and genome-wide analyses of HIV integration patterns into host genomic DNA. She obtained her Ph.D. from Stanford University and, with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rubins and colleagues developed the first model of smallpox infection. She also developed a complete map of the poxvirus transcriptome and studied virus-host interactions using both invitro and animal model systems.

Dr. Rubins then accepted a Fellow/Principal Investigator position at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research (MIT/Cambridge, Massachusetts) and headed a lab of 14 researchers studying viral diseases that primarily affect Central and West Africa. She traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to conduct research and supervise study sites. Work in the Rubins Lab focused on poxviruses and host-pathogen interaction as well as viral mechanisms for regulating host cell mRNA transcription, translation and decay. In addition, she conducted research on transcriptome and genome sequencing of filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg) and Arenaviruses (Lassa Fever) and collaborative projects with the U.S. Army to develop therapies for Ebola and Lassa viruses. Dr. Rubins has published and presented her work in numerous papers at international scientific conferences and in scientific journals.

Rubins was selected in July 2009 as 1 of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. Her training included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in International Space Station systems, spacewalks, robotics, physiological training, T 38 flight training and water and wilderness survival training.

Expeditions 48 and 49 (July 2016 through October 2016.)On July 7th, 2016, Dr. Rubins launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station aboard the first test flight of the new Soyuz MS spacecraft. Together the international crew of Expeditions 48 and 49 conducted or participated in more than 275 different scientific experiments including research in molecular and cellular biology, human physiology, fluid and combustion physics, Earth and space science and technology development. Dr. Rubins was the first person to sequence DNA in space, eventually sequencing over 2 billion base pairs of DNA during a series of experiments to analyze sequencing in microgravity. Dr. Rubins also grew heart cells (cardiomyocytes) in cell culture, and performed quantitative, real-time PCR and microbiome experiments in orbit.

Dr. Rubins conducted two spacewalks totaling 12 hours, 46 minutes. During her first spacewalk, Rubins and Jeff Williams installed the first International Docking Adapter, a new docking port for U.S. commercial crew spacecraft. During the second, they performed maintenance of the station external thermal control system and installed high-definition cameras, enabling never-before seen images of the planet and space station. Jeff Williams and Rubins successfully captured SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply spacecraft and then returned science experiment samples to earth. During Expedition 49, Rubins and crewmate Takuya Onishi grappled Orbital ATK’s Cygnus resupply spacecraft, providing several tons of supplies and research experiments for future work on the orbital outpost.

Rubins has logged 115 days in space and 12 hours and 46 minutes of spacewalk time.


Maria T. Zuber, Vice President for Research and E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics, MIT
Maria T. Zuber is the E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and Vice President for Research at MIT, where she is responsible for research administration and policy. She oversees MIT Lincoln Laboratory and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research laboratories and centers, including the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, MIT Energy Initiative, MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative, Plasma Science and Fusion Center, Research Laboratory of Electronics, Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, and Haystack Observatory. Vice President Zuber is also responsible for intellectual property and research integrity and compliance, as well as research relationships with the federal government.

Professor Zuber's research bridges planetary geophysics and the technology of space-based laser and radio systems. Since 1990, she has held leadership roles associated with scientific experiments or instrumentation on nine NASA missions, most notably serving as Principal Investigator of the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory or GRAIL mission. Additional information about her research is available at http://www-geodyn.mit.edu.

Vice President Zuber has won numerous awards including the MIT James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award, the highest honor the MIT faculty bestows to one of its own. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and American Philosophical Society, and is a fellow for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society and the American Geophysical Union.

Vice President Zuber is the first woman to lead a science department at MIT and the first to lead a NASA planetary mission. In 2004 she served on the Presidential Commission on the Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. In 2002 Discover magazine named her one of the 50 most important women in science and, in 2008, she was named to the USNews/Harvard Kennedy School List of America's Best Leaders. In 2013 President Obama appointed her to the National Science Board, and in 2016 she was elected Board Chair.