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Expanding Your Horizons

2021 Keynote Speaker

KAREN B. BRUN (image courtesy of NASA)


On July 20, 1969, everything changed for Karen as she fixated on the grainy television live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing. At the time, just a child growing up on the island of Trinidad and Tobago, embracing this new-found passion could have only remained a fantasy seeing at the time, she had never traveled more than 50 miles from her birthplace, much less travel on an aircraft. Years later, she took that first airplane ride, which brought her to a new life and opportunities in the United States.

Pursuing her passion, Karen embarked on a career in the U.S. Air Force, specializing in aviation and air mobility operations serving as a C-5 Galaxy Flight Engineer. She also earned three associate degrees from the Community College of the Air Force and a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Technology from Thomas Edison State University. Most recently, Karen earned a Master of Science in Unmanned Systems with a concentration in Space Systems, from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Karen also holds Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licenses and ratings which includes: Instrument Rated Private Pilot; Remote Pilot; Aircraft Dispatcher; Airframe and Power Plant Mechanic; and Flight Engineer (Turbojet). As an instrument rated private pilot, she has been selected for an ongoing FAA-sponsored study to fly simulations using enhanced weather models to help industry experts identify root causes for weather- related general aviation accidents.

With an insatiable passion for Space, Karen also sought opportunities such as RockOn, a NASA-sponsored program, where she learned to build sounding rocket payloads utilizing an Arduino platform, and had a front row seat as it launched onboard a Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility.

In 2016, Karen was selected as a Scientist-Astronaut Candidate for Project PoSSUM, a citizen-science astronautics research and education program which is supported by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program.

Soon after, NASA selected Karen as a Mission Specialist for the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) Program, a 45-day simulated space habitat mission at NASA Johnson Space Center, which focuses on human research to support future deep space travel.

Following HERA, Karen accepted a NASA internship at the Safety & Mission Assurance Support Division at the NASA Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Almost fifty years since watching Neil Armstrong make one giant leap for mankind, Karen continues to share her passion by inspiring generations of learners about aviation and space exploration, and how they too can become a part of it by becoming involved in Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) programs early. Passion overcomes setbacks …just stay the course because there is no timeline, only perseverance.