During Morgan Kainu's first semester at UNT, she enrolled in principal lecturer Beverly Davenport's applied anthropology class. Via teleconference, Davenport invited applied anthropologists from around the globe to discuss their careers, many of which defied typical expectations. They worked in areas ranging from medical trauma centers to genealogy.
Kainu, too, was fascinated by the path less traveled. Since she was a kid, the senior anthropology major has loved outer space, attending NASA summer camps and visiting observatories and planetariums. Though no one else at UNT -- and practically no one in the U.S. -- was studying it, Kainu thought: Why not combine anthropology and the universe?
"It's not a specific field of study," Kainu says. "But I told myself, 'This is something I love to do, and I'm going to make it happen.'"
And she dove right in. Kainu started a UNT chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space in 2017 and has been instrumental in bringing the organization's SpaceVision 2020 conference to UNT next October. This year, she began working as the sponsorship manager with the Space Frontier Foundation, which advocates for the commercial space industry. And she also recently launched a student organization called SWISE -- the Society for Women in Space Exploration -- and is lead flight director for Mars Academy USA, which uses exponential technologies and simulation-based learning to train the next generation of analog astronauts.
For Kainu's research, anthropology professor Christina Wasson took her under her wing for a special problems course the two devised together. Kainu is interested in the human factors and ergonomics of space station, analog station and off-planet habitat design.
"Wherever humans go, anthropologists follow," says Kainu, who is applying to UNT's applied anthropology graduate program. "It's a phenomenal moment for space exploration with the possibility of moving off-planet."