National Aeronautics and Space Administration + NASA Quest
+ Search Quest
 Find it at NASA
Mojave 2007

photo of Elaine Bryant

Elaine Pressly Bryant
Graduate Student, Biology
San Jose State University

Currently, I am a graduate student at San Jose State University in the Biology Department studying environmental microbiology with Dr. Sabine Rech.  My particular focus is on the bacterial and Archaea communities in arid environments such as the Mojave Desert.  I am looking for ways to adequately assess microbial communities and identify possible methods that could be adapted for use by a robotic mission to other planets.  I also teach general microbiology labs.

My background is primarily science.  I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee in physics with the original intent of going into astronomy.  However, I went to the University of Michigan and received an MS degree in atmospheric sciences, primarily focused on the atmospheres of Mars and Titan.  I followed that up with working for CompuServe, Inc as a computer programmer, then worked for Battelle Laboratories in Columbus, Ohio as an aerosol physicist, running nuclear reactor loss-of-coolant accident simulations.

After marriage and getting two children through elementary school, I returned to college with the intention of graduate work in some field of biology.  When I took my first microbiology class, I knew what I wanted to do.  The attraction to the pathogenic areas of microbiology was initially of interest, but was quickly overshadowed by the realization of how little is actually known about soil microbes.  That, and the opportunity to tie together my love of astronomy and my background in atmospheric science and physics with my new interest in microbiology was simply too exciting to pass up.

My goal is to finish my research and receive an MS from SJSU and then teach microbiology courses at the college level.  However, the desire to follow through with my current line of research and expand it to other arid environments such as the Atacama Desert of Chile and the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica may have me headed toward a PhD…….we’ll just see what happens!


 FirstGov  NASA

Editor: Linda Conrad
NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated: May 2011

Teachers Contact: Liza Coe