By Rick Morwick
Zoe Koniaris already has her career path mapped out. Sort of.
An aspiring astronaut and politician, the Carmel High School senior wants to navigate a way to both vocations.
“In an ideal world, I’d be both an aerospace engineer and a surgeon for the first part of my career until I was selected as a NASA astronaut,” she said. “Then, I’d hopefully work as a space doctor on a Mars mission until I aged out of the astronaut program.
“Once happily retired from space work, I’d run for the U.S. Senate. It’s an ambitious career path, I know.”
Perhaps, but Koniaris, 17, has a pretty good head start on the first part of her career journey. An honors student at CHS, she recently participated in the prestigious Student Enhancement in Earth and Space Science summer internship at the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Space Research. Only 50 students were chosen out of 600 applicants.
During the two-week intensive (July 13-27), interns conducted research with NASA scientists and engineers on data collected from Earth-observing satellites. They also designed Mars habitats, studied lunar exploration and analyzed images from the International Space Station.
“There were lessons specific to the Mars team that involved extensive reading and researching topics that we later presented,” Koniaris said. “My topics were environmental control life-support systems and space law.”
Koniaris, whose parents are Dr. Teresa Zimmers and Dr. Leonidas Koniaris, plans to major in aerospace engineering in college with a minor in geology. She also is interested in studying politics and possibly international relations.
Her internship, not surprisingly, did nothing to suppress her desire to join NASA.
“My favorite part of the experience was getting to meet and work with such intelligent and passionate people,” Koniaris said. “Hearing their insights about the project work and learning about career paths was an incredible opportunity.”