Astronaut candidate's profile

The candidates participating in the astronaut selection process all have unique journeys and outstanding qualities and skills. You can read their remarkable profiles here.

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Tansley, Gavin

Gavin Tansley

Where were you born?
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Education

  • Bachelor's, cell biology and genetics – University of British Columbia
  • Master's, medical research – Dalhousie University
  • Master's, public health – London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Doctorate, medicine – University of British Columbia
  • Postgraduate, general surgery – Dalhousie University

What is your current job?

General surgery resident - I am currently a general surgery resident in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I work in a hospital providing surgical care to the population of Nova Scotia. General surgeons treat patients with a variety of health problems such as cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, abdominal infections, and severe injuries.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

My two biggest fascinations are the pursuit of new knowledge and venturing into terra ignota. Books about scientists and explorers have always filled my bookshelves. Astronauts have the unique privilege of doing both of these jobs at the same time. It would be the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to use some of the greatest human innovations to expand what we know and explore where we don't.

What motivated you to study in your field?

Human physiology is such an amazing thing. It's so complicated that we only superficially understand it. But in all its perfection, sometimes things can still go wrong. Cells can start to divide out of control and become cancers; the vessels that carry blood around our bodies can burst; bacteria can gain the upper hand over our immune systems. Using decades of research to find and fix these problems is an incredible thing. It's what drew me to surgery and what motivates me during the long nights in the hospital!

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

An incredible professor once gave me the opportunity to work in a laboratory during high school. She gave me a small research project to work on, but to me it felt like the most important project in the world. I thought for sure I would cure Alzheimer's disease. I could practically taste the Nobel Prize. Although that project finished with a small publication, I still have never been to Stockholm. More importantly, though, this professor taught me to love the process of discovery. No one has ever taught me anything more important.

What do you like best about your job?

Well, it's not the hours. Surgeons work a lot.

I like the uncertainty. One of the most important skills in surgery is becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. I never know what will happen when I walk through the doors of the hospital. All I know is that I'll have to think on my feet and make the best guess with the available information.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

Sir Edmund Hillary. He climbed Mount Everest at a time when many people thought it was beyond the limits of human ability. He tried anyway, and succeeded with incredible humility.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

The Martian.

What is your motto?

The sky is no limit.

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

What is your most treasured possession?

What is your favourite place on Earth?

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

What is your favourite book?

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