NewsLocal NewsSan Diego News


UCSD graduate becomes NASA astronaut candidate

Deniz Burnham graduated from UCSD in 2007
Deniz Burnham.png
Posted at 4:17 PM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 20:16:09-05

(KGTV) -- For the first time in four years, NASA is announcing a new graduating class of astronaut recruits. One of them is a UC San Diego graduate. She said the La Jolla campus had a profound impact on her journey to NASA.

Dreaming big has never meant 'impossible' for US Navy Lieutenant Deniz Burnham.

"My childhood dream was always to be a NASA astronaut," Burnham said. "So honestly, I think whatever they asked me to do, I'm going to do it with a big smile on my face."

The 36-year-old engineer is one of ten members of the 2021 NASA astronaut class, carefully selected out of 12,000 applicants.

With both parents in the military, she was always passionate about aviation. It was her time as an undergraduate at UC San Diego that really sparked her curiosity.

"Right near Torrey Pines, getting to watch the hang gliders, things like this, it inspired me a lot," Burnham said.

Her internships at General Atomics and Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute launched her career in the energy industry.

"I think that is what kind of initially got my love and curiosity of science and hands-on experience. Got my start in San Diego!" Burnham said.

But her determination and grit may be in her DNA. Her mother's childhood dream was to be a military officer. But at the time in Turkey, women were not allowed. So she took the path to become an officer anyway, but for the United States Airforce. Strong women like her gave Burnham the courage to dream big.

"As long as you kind of follow what you are passionate about, it should allow you to excel and stay the course, and you're going to achieve whatever you want to achieve," Burnham said.

So when they say 'the sky is the limit,' it'll be far beyond that for Burnham. Perhaps the moon, Mars, or something even farther away.

In January, Burnham reports to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to start her two-year training program. There, she and the other candidates will study the International Space Station, practice spacewalks, operate a T-38 jet, and learn the Russian language, among other skills.