Dr Tess Morris-Paterson

Expert in astronaut selection and training

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Background in performance in elite and professional sport
Expert in how the body responds to microgravity
Awarded by the International Astronautical Federation, the Aerospace Medical Association, and NASA Human Research Program
Consults with international Space Agencies on astronaut selection and training

Dr Tess Morris-Paterson is a chartered scientist who worked as a Head of Performance in elite and professional sport, before transitioning her expertise to human spaceflight. She gained experience at NASA Ames Research Center as a visiting scientist and attended International Space University, before starting her own business that specialises in the selection and training of astronauts.

During her time working in sport, for five years she was one of three women working in the Premier League. She also worked for the Football Association and Women’s Super League. She went on to apply her expertise in multiple other sports, including Formula One with McLaren and world number 1 ranked athletes in tennis and golf.

During this time, she pioneered new techniques, such as a novel method to measure muscle mass by taking a pill, and created bespoke solutions for athlete nutrition, seeking the marginal gains that could mean the difference between winning and losing. She finished her career in sport as an Olympic and Paralympic Head of Performance, managing a team of experts responsible for the mental and physical health, well-being, and optimization of athletes.

In human spaceflight, Tess is an expert in how the body responds to microgravity. This included her work at NASA where she was in GeneLab, a team that investigates spaceflight-related molecular level changes. Her research has resulted in awards from the International Astronautical Federation, the Aerospace Medical Association, and NASA Human Research Program.

In 2019, she was voted by global experts as an Emerging Space Leader and received a scholarship from the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency. This experience, plus her own diligent approach toward Astronaut Selection, was ideal preparation for starting her own business where she provides support to international space agencies looking to develop their own astronaut selection and training.

In her spare time, Tess is a British Army Reserve Officer in the Royal Engineers, a corps that has ~5% women, and has been responsible for a unit of up to 100 soldiers. She enjoys flying light aircraft, where she received the Faith Bennett Navigation Cup from the British Women Pilots’ Association for a World Record Attempt to fly around the USA. She is a keen ski instructor and master scuba diver.

Suggested Talks:

Train like an astronaut: The role of an astronaut is widely considered to be one of the most demanding occupations in the world. They work at the forefront of human endeavor, pushing the boundaries of physical and mental performance. In this talk, Tess dispels the myth that astronauts are superhuman and explains how deliberate focus on one goal at a time can produce outstanding results. She describes some of the extraordinary effects of spaceflight on the human body, and how the way these are mitigated are similar to those for aging on earth. She explores the emphasis placed on team interaction and the importance of clear but considered communication. If you work in multinational teams, under time pressure, and want to be prepared should a crisis occur, you may face similar challenges to astronauts who live on the International Space Station. This talk provides a unique insight into a rarely examined group of high-performing individuals and provides tangible lessons from the way they operate.

Sport, Space, and Soldiers: Tess spent a decade in elite and professional sport before moving into human spaceflight and commissioning as a British Army Reserve officer. Each of these settings has been celebrated for their excellence, but as Tess reveals that isn’t always the case. In this talk, Tess describes the most and the least impressive high-performing environments she has worked in, and the key differences between them. Tess unpicks the traits of the teams who have succeeded at the highest level and the downfalls of ones that have not, drawing on her experiences in the Premier League; Formula One; Olympic and Paralympic sport; working in Space Agencies, including NASA; and running a British Army unit of 100 soldiers. In this talk, Tess explores lessons of simplicity versus complexity, change versus consistency, leadership versus followership, and the importance of delivering robust feedback with kindness. This talk is essential for those who strive for excellence within their teams and are willing to learn from others’ mistakes to build a high-performance environment.

Woman-up: the differences between men and women are still strongly reinforced in our everyday lives, despite workplace initiatives around diversity and inclusion. As someone that has almost exclusively worked in all-male environments, Tess brings a fresh and candid perspective to this on-going discussion. She discusses her experiences, ranging from being hired solely due to her gender, being considered ‘one of the lads’, being accepted completely as she is, being made to feel like an outsider, and not getting a role because she’s a woman. In this talk, Tess outlines the difficult balance of striving for success in a male dominated world and also being the difference she wants to see in the world for the next generation of women to follow. This is an important talk for those interested in a unique perspective on gender diversity, in having a frank discussion about the realities and challenges that continue to exist, and learning how it can be positively approached.

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