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Monsi Roman        

Microbiologist & Program Manager for Centennial Challenges at NASA JSC

Monserrate (Monsi) Román say microbiology may not come to your mind when the name International Space Station (ISS) is mentioned: but it should. She should know. Roman, born and raised in Puerto Rico, was a member of the team which built the early stages of the ISS and designed materials that are microbe-resistant for the Station.

Román, as the lead scientist overseeing the life support unit of ISS’s early construction, was responsible for determining how viruses, fungi, bacteria, parasites and other organisms would behave in space under different situations and locations aboard the Station. Working with engineers, she also ensured that humidity- and temperature-control systems aboard the Station were designed and installed to keep microbe growth in check, and that safe water and air recycling systems were instituted. The Station is situated more than 200 miles above Earth at any given time.

Román is now a project manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where she began her NASA career in 1989. She also serves a role model for other students, especially girls, who are considering pursuing careers in science.

Román has a B.A. degree in microbiology from the University of Puerto Rico, and her Master’s in the same discipline from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.


Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Episode 29, Centennial Challenges
Monsi Roman, NASA Centennial Challenges Program Manager, discusses the agency’s flagship prizes and competition program.
Latina Scientist Keeps an Eye on Smallest Inhabitants of Space
Roman's fascination with science and living organisms blossomed when she was a child. Her science teachers nurtured her curiosity, encouraged her to participate in science fairs, and provided opportunities for her to work with real scientists. Roman carries on that tradition, helping with classes at NASA's Challenger Learning Centers and at the agency's Educator Resources Center in Huntsville.
The microbiologist studying the giant floating petri dish in space
Where there are humans, there are microorganisms. So the question for Roman was, what kind of organisms could safely exist in the water and on the station. It led to a wide array of tests: different kinds of materials, humidity levels and temperatures. They even experimented with tactics like vacuuming out floating food particles using air filters.

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