Dr. Shobhana Gupta

How Do You Solve Today’s Ecological, Health, and Planetary Challenges…in Two Days?

Ask Dr. Shobhana Gupta, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at NASA


The short answer to this question is by participating in NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge. ‘Space Apps’ is a hackathon that occurs over a 48 hour-period in cities around the world. This year’s event, Space Apps’s 6th anniversary, attracted over 25,000 participants from 69 countries. Coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, builders, technologists, and pretty much anyone else who is enthusiastic about space came together to address some of the toughest challenges we face on Earth and in space!

As a Policy Fellow at NASA, Shobhana has been the Project Manager in charge of organizing and running the event this year. She will be sharing her insights and more about ‘Space Apps’ at IPM Day 2017.

According to Shobhana, “The goal of the Space Apps program is to bring innovation, creativity, and problem solving to as many places as possible. Local and global business owners sponsor events in their cities, enabling them to see the talent pools right in their own backyard. Plus, we get to solve real and significant problems. It’s a win-win. I’m proud to say that our social media reached 40 million people this year, with over 45% of those interactions being with women!”

This year’s categories were focused on challenges on Earth:

The day before the event, several Space Apps locations host Data Bootcamps, consisting of tutorials and demos. This year’s program was expanded with two locations serving as Space Apps Mainstages, or mission controls: New York City and Silicon Valley. Their Data Bootcamp and hackathon events were livestreamed to be viewed around the world.

Shobhana’s role as a fellow for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) came from her love of connecting science to its impact in the real world. Her background includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry from Vanderbilt University, Project Management Certification from Georgetown University, and an MD/PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Now that her two-year stint as a NASA fellow is almost complete, Shobhana is taking some time to reflect on the experience and planning to continue her science policy work in the Washington, D.C. area. Her career advice to others: “It’s important to continue to learn and never stop being a student—and IPM Day 2017 is a step in the right direction. Some of my best ideas come from hearing case studies from other individuals and how they face and address their challenges. Keep your eyes and ears open to new learning. Also ‘pay it forward’ by supporting those next in line and make sure they succeed as well. Success is not just about personal achievement; only by helping each other, can our missions/programs become successful.”

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