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STRASBOURG, FRANCE, October 4, 2021 / -- During UN World Space Week - "Women in Space" (October 4-10) The Kalpana Chawla Project for Innovation, Entrepreneurism and Space Studies at the International Space University announces the graduation of five top scholars from 2021 Space Studies Program (SSP) at the world renowned, International Space University (ISU). The Dr. Kalpana Chawla Scholarship project has been established to honor the Indian-American Astronaut Dr. Kalpana Chawla. The project is focused on developing strong technical and leadership qualities with talented Indian women.

Indian astronaut Sirisha Bandla said “I am honored to join the Board of Advisors of the The Kalpana Chawla Project for Innovation, Entrepreneurism and Space Studies. Dr. Kalpana Chawla was not only a great inspiration for me, but also for millions of other young Indian women and girls. This year’s UN World Space Week is particularly relevant because it celebrates the importance of women in space.

Sirisha Bandla

Sirisha Bandla is an Indian American aeronautical engineer and astronaut. Born in Guntur, India, Sirisha moved to the U.S. where she eventually attended university and graduated with a B.S. in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University, and an M.B.A. from George Washington University. She's the Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations for Virgin Galactic, where she has worked since 2015. She flew on the Virgin Galactic Unity 22 mission which made her the second India-born woman to go to space.

The scholars graduating from this year’s SSP include:

Richal Abhang

Richal Abhang works as a mechanical engineering student where her task is to design and manufacture prototypes including seismic vibration isolation and dampening systems. It includes mathematical modelling, CAD, FEA, Manufacturing and Experimentation. She is inclined more towards technical aspects of work and studies. A researcher who enjoys hands-on work and counts physics and fluid mechanics among her favorite subjects.

Sucheshna Patil

Sucheshna Patil is an Engineer, s a Masters & Bachelor of Engineering in Biotechnology Degree with 3experience at reputed Research Institutes as MD Anderson Cancer Center, Methodist Research Institute, TTU Center for Biotechnology & Genomics with focus on Molecular biology, Stem Cell culture, Cloning, Protein expression, Antibody Validation & Optimization, IHC, and Multiplex IF.

Dr. Saswati Das

Dr Saswati Das is an MD Biochemist from India. As a medical specialist she oversees a broad portfolio of chemical pathology diagnostics, molecular medicine, and quality management. In addition to her role as a specialist, she has spearheaded COVID-19 response efforts by advocating the development of evidence-informed testing strategy, participating in webinars as a subject matter expert, and capacity building by training laboratory personnel. She completed her bachelor's in medicine and surgery and her Doctorate in Medicine from the University of Delhi. Thereafter she trained in Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, New York USA, and Royal Free Hospital, NHS UK as an international fellow. She has authored many publications on healthcare quality assurance, CAD, biomarkers, and COVID-19. Her research interests are Cardiac Biochemistry, Prenatal Screening, Neonatal screening, Radiation Biochemistry, Space Medicine, Nutrition Biochemistry, Multi-Omics, and Risk Management.

Monica Ekal

Monica Ekal is a PhD student at Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon, Portugal, researching dynamic uncertainty reduction for on-orbit free-flyer operations. Skilled in robot estimation, trajectory planning, and control, she has five years of experience in designing algorithms for aerial and space robots, including at EPFL (Lausanne), and MIT (Boston). Her work has been tested on NASA’s Astrobee robotic platform onboard the International Space Station.

Dr. Garima Patel (PT)

Dr. Patel is a Senior Physiotherapist with 8+ years of clinical experience in neurological rehabilitation.She is the founder director of Movement Inspirant Pvt. Ltd. and currently involved in research related to functional recovery after spinal cord injury and stroke. Her research interests also include effects of altered gravity on the human body, exercise countermeasures and Women’s Health in space. She is an alumnus of AIIPMR and SVNIRTAR (pioneer institutes of physiotherapy in India).

Since 2017, the Dr. KC Scholars has been funding young Indian women of talent to attend the ISU. There has been a total of sixteen KC Scholars to date (the first scholar in 2017, two in 2018, four in 2019 and four scholars in 2020 and five in 2021. (

The goal is to attract talented Indian women who are postgraduate students with backgrounds in science, medicine, materials, arts, policy, business management, satellite technology, and other space-related areas of focus, who also share Dr. Chawla’s selfless and passionate pursuit of education and excellence.

Scholarship Funding

The Scholarship project for the ISU Space Studies 2022 ( SSP21) is currently seeking funding to send talented women scholars that will be held in Lisbon, Portugal next year. We are seeking to raise the remaining €20,000. We welcome and are grateful for your support to help these scholars attend the Space Studies Program at International Space University together. The Geeks Without Frontiers’ “For Womenkind” initiative has been an early supporter of this project. A modest donation from you, can contribute in a meaningful way towards this achievable goal, and changing the lives of talented young women.

Donation Link

Geeks Without Frontiers ( is an award-winning non-profit organization whose mission is to bring the benefits of broadband connectivity to the estimated 3 billion people who remain unconnected in order to help close the Digital Divide and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Geeks Without Frontiers’ WomenConnect! initiative focuses on gender equality and women’s empowerment by providing access to connectivity, technology and innovation that will give women unprecedented opportunities and education to break trends, boost technology-driven innovative solutions for sustainable development and remove barriers to the advancement of women and girls.

The project is actively seeking partnerships and sponsorships that will enable future Indian women scholars of talent to attend this extraordinary program.

About the International Space University

Since its founding in 1987, ISU has graduated more than 5200 students from over 110 countries. Together with hundreds of ISU faculty and lecturers from around the world, ISU alumni comprise an extremely effective network of space professionals and leaders that actively facilitates individual career growth, professional activities and international space cooperation.

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