Where They’re Headed: Sofia Tieze ’17

The biology major and neuroscience minor will be assisting NASA’s BioSentinel mission in the Silicon Valley.

Not everyone’s first post-collegiate job is out of this world, but Sofia Tieze’s is. The biology major and neuroscience minor is interning at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley this summer, working on the BioSentinel mission, which is set for take-off in 2018.

The BioSentinel mission will send cultures of yeast into space to test the effects of solar radiation on DNA. The mission will involve analyzing the way yeast cells repair DNA damage after having been exposed to radiation. Tieze is helping scientists at NASA prepare for the 2018 mission by cultivating yeast cultures strong enough to withstand space travel. The results of the mission will help scientists at NASA understand the effects of radiation on human cells.

Rigorous science courses at Haverford provided Tieze with ample opportunity to “grow and learn as a scientist.” And thanks to her thesis research analyzing the effects of proteins on the neurodegenerative disease in fruit flies and her microbiology coursework, she garnered invaluable experience during college that prepared her for work “engineering yeast as a model organism for studying radiation in space.”

“The amount of trust and laboratory time given to undergraduates by the biology and chemistry departments and the breadth of experience offered is truly laudable,” Tieze says.

While her academic coursework helped her gain experience in a lab, her extracurricular activities as a fencer and as a co-manager at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery helped her build valuable leadership skills that are equally important in her new work.

“Fencing helped me cultivate a sense of balance and composure in the face of frustration,” she says, and stepping up at the gallery “enabled me to practice vocal resolution and assertiveness within my tendency for introversion.”

Going forward, Tieze hopes to make her way to graduate school, perhaps for neurobiology, but for now, she is getting quite an education at NASA, where she says she will “be a sponge,” absorbing as much as she can from her experience.

“There is so much beauty and complexity around us,” she said. “For me, studying biology honors this idea and allows me to meditate on existence, and the marvelous absurdity that it is.”

Photo by Ilene Squires.

“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.