A 32-year-old neurosurgeon from Alberta in Canada, Shawna Pandya will soon become the third Indian origin woman to go in space after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.
Pandya told CBC, “When I was 10, I became obsessed with astronomy. All my junior high science projects or reports, they were all space related … I think the idea of doing something that’s so adventurous and really pushes the bounds of exploration and the fact that you’d get to space really, really resonated with me.”
She was born in Canada and has roots in Mumbai. Pandya is extremely talented; she is not only a neurosurgeon but also a competitive taekwondo athlete and learnt Russian, French and Spanish. The list continues; she is an opera singer, author and even learnt Muay Thai from a Navy SEAL.
Pandya was one of the two candidates who shortlisted from 3,200 people in the Citizen Science Astronaut program. In 2018, she will fly in the space with eight other astronauts.
She did her B.Sc. in neuroscience at University of Alberta and M.Sc. in space sciences at International Space University. After that, she did an MD in Medicine from the University of Alberta.
Last year, Dr. Pandya spent a week training in Project PoSSUM’s (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere) far-out Scientist-Astronaut Course at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in US. In a part of her training, there she wore spacesuits, rode on aerobatic flights and experiencing changing gravity environments.
Now she is in Mumbai to meet her family. She is giving motivational lectures in the hospitals and schools. She also thinks there is a great potential in Indian people to achieve the heights.
Shawna said, “All we need is to get acquainted with everyday developments in science, be resilient and always try to achieve something bigger.”