National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Molly Teresa Townsend

Molly Teresa TownsendUniversity of California, Davis
Davis, CA
Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

Clemson University
Clemson, SC
B.S. in Bioengineering, Music minor, ‘12

2012 NASA Glenn Academy

  • Operations and Logistics Manager

Davis, CA


“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 a recent alumnus of Clemson University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Bioengineering with a focus on Biomaterials and a minor in Music. This fall I will attend University of California, Davis for my Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, where I hope to combine my passion for biology and space in a unique doctoral project.


I have been lucky 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. In the past year, we received two patents on our technology on central venous catheterization techniques and have started a company, MedUSim Solutions, to distribute the simulators and exploring other procedures.

I was also given the chance to work with osteoclast cells at the Medical University of South Carolina, examining their proliferation in microgravity conditions. The project was sponsored by 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.

Last summer I was lucky enough to participate in the 2011 NASA Glenn Academy for Space Exploration, working with Dr. Beth Lewandowski on the Integrated Medical Model project. I performed validation of mechanical models for potential space station injuries.

Extracurricular Activities

Music plays an unbelievably large role in my life. I play the baritone saxophone and have done a stint in most of Clemson University’s ensembles, from the CU Jungaleers 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. This summer I am lucky enough to take a brief hiatus from my managerial duties to represent my university and the United States at the London Olympics with the ’11-’12 CU Jungaleers.

I also actively participated in the Women in Science and Engineering Program as a Big Sister. For three years, I acted as a mentor to incoming freshman engineering and science females, encouraging them in this male-dominated field. I did everything from tutoring and running study sessions to baking and setting up finals coffee breaks, to help oppose the high drop rate of females in engineering and science disciplines.

I also enjoy running and cycling leisurely, putting together puzzles, and reading classic literature.


I have a very long bucket list. I hope to eventually gain a position in a lab looking into biological changes that result due to microgravity influences. 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).