Dr Sarah Kessans


Dr Sarah Kessans is a US-born New Zealand scientist and biochemist, a multi-national champion in rowing and was in the top 50 applicants—out of over 18,000—in the NASA astronaut programme.

She’s earned degrees in plant and molecular biologies, worked on a plant-based HIV vaccine, and is now working at the cutting edge of synthetic biology solutions to combat climate change, facilitate space colonisation, and advance innovations in medicine and agriculture. In short, she’s figuring out what we’ll eat on Mars.

She uses her work whilst educating and inspiring future leaders to courageously tackle scientific and societal challenges with purpose, integrity, and empathy.

Speaking at TEDxChristchurch 2019: Tūrangawaewae probably won’t be the most terrifying thing she’s done; in 2006, she spent 16 hours clinging to a capsised rowboat during her first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Two years later she returned with a crew to complete her mission, setting a world record in the process.