UNC alumna and NASA Astronaut Candidate Zena Cardman returns to Carolina to share her journey from conducting research as an undergraduate to training for future space missions. Selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class, Cardman graduated from UNC in 2010 with a B.S. in biology, honors in poetry, and minors in marine science, creative writing, and chemistry. She completed her master’s degree in marine science at UNC in 2014. Her research has focused on microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments. Cardman’s field experience includes multiple Antarctic expeditions, work aboard research vessels as both scientist and crew, and NASA analog missions in British Columbia, Idaho, and Hawaii.
As an undergraduate researcher – and later Master’s student – in Marine Sciences at UNC, Cardman studied microbial ecology in hydrothermal vents, the Arctic, and oil spill affected sediments of the Gulf of Mexico. During that time, she also worked with the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research group in Antarctica and the Pavilion Lake Research Project in British Columbia. Prior to starting her Master’s program, Cardman sailed with the Sea Education Association as Assistant Engineer aboard a 135’ tall ship. At the time of her selection in June 2017, Cardman was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at The Pennsylvania State University.