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Looking Skyward for Research Experience

Over two summers during her undergraduate education, Saint Louis University alumna Morgan Elliott interned as NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) Cardiovascular Laboratory, working with NASA scientists and astronauts. 

Morgan Elliott

SLU alumna Morgan Elliott (right) poses with astronaut Tracy C. Dyson. Elliott met Dyson and other NASA notables during an internship at the Johnson Space Center during her SLU undergrad years.

As a child, Elliott (Parks ’15) didn’t dream about blasting off into space. She was focused on engineering and patient health as she grew older. However, as she pursued a degree in biomedical engineering under the mentorship of Professor Gary Bledsoe, Ph.D., and faculty members in the School of Medicine, she applied for a NASA internship through the agency’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP).

“Space research was brought to my attention at SLU and the direct implications of space research on human health was made clear to me while at NASA,” Elliott said. “The program supported my education at SLU and gave me a new perspective on research. The work was inspiring because the research’s applicability to NASA goals was evident every step of the way.”

I sincerely believe my studies and research at SLU combined with my NASA internship experiences helped prepare me for graduate school"

Morgan Elliott,  (Parks ’15)

As part of the internship, she learned about the center’s work and analyzed arterial mechanics of the vascular walls during head-down-tilt bed rest, a ground-based simulation of microgravity.

“NASA gave me a new lens to investigate the cardiovascular system,” Elliot said. “Every aspect of work at NASA is focused towards the overall mission; each question and study goes toward a “go-no go” decision. I loved the driven nature of the work and the ability of everyone, from interns to astronauts, to understand how they contribute to the overall mission.”

Her work at SLU and NASA led her to her current work as a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University.

“I sincerely believe my studies and research at SLU combined with my NASA internship experiences helped prepare me for graduate school,” Elliott said. “As part of Parks College, I looked at the wall timeline of historic college events and related NASA patches every day on my way to class.”

Parks College’s history is intertwined with space and aviation, she added.

“I am proud to be one of the many tendrils involved in that historic, growing braid," Elliot said. "It’s humbling and inspiring to know the legacy of Parks College and its alumni. I will continue to push the boundaries of innovation as they did.”