Yi So-Yeon

Women in STEM
Yi So-Yeon

Birth: June 2, 1978

Specialty: Biomechanics

Major Contributions:

First Korean Astronaut

11 days aboard the ISS

Former researcher at Korean Aerospace Research Institute

Faculty member International Space University

Image: Wikimedia

One of ten finalists out of 36,000 applicants, Yi So-Yeon was selected to be one of two potential astronauts from South Korea in 2006. Before this announcement she had earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). She became a researcher at the school, using her micro fabrication skills in the design, creation, and testing of DNA self-focusing microchips.

After her selection for the mission to the International Space Station, she spent fifteen months training at the Gagarin Training Center in Russia. It was announced on March 10, 2008 that she would be completing the mission and on the eighth of April she, along with three others, traveled to the ISS aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-11.

Spending two hundred and forty hours in space she conducted eighteen experiments for the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). Included in these experiments were studies on plant growth as well as 1,000 fruit flies she brought with her in order to examine the effects of space on their behavior and genomes.  Another experiment had her measuring the noise levels on the ISS and she was also the subject of her own research charting the physiological changes on her heart, eyes, and face shape that came from being in space. The return to Earth in Soyuz TMA-12 was marked with a poor reentry causing the astronauts to experience the force of gravity at ten times the rate of Earth and they landed over 250 miles off course.

Earning her doctorate from KAIST in 2008, she continued to work at KARI on analysis of the data she collected and as a public speaker on Korea’s space and technology programs.

In 2014, Yi resigned from KARI, citing personal reasons including pursuing an MBA at UC Berkeley and a planned move to the United States.  After earning her MBA, she sits on the boards of various schools and businesses, is the Founder and Director of a professional training and coaching company and is the managing director for business development and partnerships at a medical diagnostics company.

Written by Angela Goad


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Wikipedia: Yi So-Yeon

LinkedIn: Soyeon Yi

See Also:

Facebook: Yi So-Yeon Fan Page

Meet Soyeon Yi: Korea’s First Astronaut (YouTube)

Korea Aerospace Research Institute

International Space Station (NASA)