National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Molly Townsend

Clemson UniversityMolly Townsend

Clemson, SC

B.S. in Bioengineering and minor in Music,  May  2012

NASA Academy Research Project:

Computational Modeling of Physiological Changes Due to a Reduced Gravity Environment and Risk Assessment of Medical Events During Spaceflight

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Beth Lewandowski


Newport News, VA


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” –Aristotle

Those were the words spoken by my band director daily in attempts to motivate us to practice our instruments. It’s a thought that’s stuck with me through my life. It is my belief that every assigned task should be completed to the upmost of one’s ability. From a doctoral dissertation to last night’s dishes, every job is a chance to show your character. In every task, no matter how mundane, show the same drive and determination that you have for your deepest hopes and goals.

Education and Professional Goals

I am entering my senior year at Clemson University. I plan to graduate in May 2012 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Bioengineering with a focus on Biomaterials and a minor in music. Upon graduation I hope to attend graduate school for my doctorate degree, focusing on the biomechanics of the skeletal system.


I have been lucky to have the opportunity to be involved in a creative inquiry group at Clemson that was charged with redesigning medical training simulators for complex medical procedures. Current marketed medical simulators are too synthetic to educate medical personnel of the technique reliably and we were asked to design a better simulator. We are currently in the process of patenting and testing a prototype for central venous catheterization techniques. We are trying to start a company to distribute the simulators and exploring other procedures.

I was then given the chance to work with osteoclast cells at the Medical University of South Carolina last summer, examining their proliferation in microgravity conditions. The project was sponsored by the NASA to help examine the bone loss that astronauts experience when exposed to a microgravity environment on space flight missions. My project specifically looked to see if microgravity encouraged autophagy in the osteoclast cells, encouraging their bone resorption and decreasing bone density of the individual.

Extracurricular Activities

Music obviously plays a large role in my life. I play the baritone saxophone and have done a stint in most of Clemson University’s ensembles, playing in everything from the jazz ensemble to the saxophone quartet. My favorite is the beautiful chaos of jazz, which is a glad change from the rigorous coursework in engineering.

I also actively participate in the Women in Science and Engineering Program as a Big Sister. I act as a mentor to incoming freshman engineering and science females, encouraging them in this male-dominated field. I do everything from tutoring and study sessions to baking and coffee breaks, to help oppose the high drop rate of females in engineering and science disciplines.


I have a long bucket list. I hope to eventually have a position in a government or academic lab looking into astronaut bone loss or gait analysis. I’d also like to complete a triathlon barefoot, play jazz music under a bridge in Central Park, and win the Nobel Prize (a girl can dream).