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UAB Optometry student sets her sights on outer space

Jessica Jasien, Ph.D., a summer graduate from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, is setting her sights high after graduation.

She has accepted a position as a senior vision scientist with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Cardiovascular and Vision Laboratory at Johnson Space Center.

In this position, Jasien will use the knowledge and experience gained through her time at UAB and in the laboratory of J. Crawford Downs, Ph.D., to research spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome.

“SANS is thought to result from an imbalance of intracranial and intraocular pressure that is caused by the absence of gravity,” said Downs, who is a professor in the UAB Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. “These cephalad fluid shifts are exactly what Jessica worked on in my laboratory at UAB.

“It’s a perfect fit for the experiments NASA is doing in astronauts and healthy volunteers on Earth to understand the causes of SANS.”

The idea of working for NASA is not new to Jasien. After obtaining her master’s degree, her first research position allowed her the opportunity to travel to Johnson Space Center. During those visits, she came to realize that it would be an exciting place to conduct research.

“I am very fortunate that Dr. Downs and UAB have helped me make the dream of conducting research at NASA a reality,” Jasien said.

Prior to coming to UAB, Jasien worked in clinical research at the New York Glaucoma Research Institute at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mt. Sinai. Gaining hands-on experience with glaucoma patient research was the steppingstone to developing her passion for glaucoma and SANS research in Downs’ lab.

“The knowledge I gained from working with clinicians and researchers at UAB will be extremely valuable for my career,” Jasien said. “I’m very excited to take this knowledge and translate it to work with NASA and the Cardiovascular and Vision Laboratory.”

(Courtesy of UAB)

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