Inga Popovaite

Inga Popovaite, Ph.D. student, Sociology

Imagines Life on Mars

Hometown: Vilnius, Lithuania
Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Alison Bianchi
What is your degree program and expected graduate date? PhD in Sociology. I expect to graduate in Spring 2022.
Please describe your research: I research groups in space analog environments –isolated and confined places that are similar to human space missions. I investigate how gender contributes to an individual’s influence within a group and how women and men manage and express their emotions in isolation and confinement. You can read more at
In simple terms, why does this research matter? Gender beliefs – what men and women ought to do or feel – influence our interactions. If we are to send people to Mars, we want to ensure that the crew is functional and that gender does not determine how much influence an astronaut has nor how much emotion work they have to do.
How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I wrote my Masters’ thesis on a different topic, and started this project in my second year at the university.
How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Having a sharp research focus helped me to deal with a stressful graduate school environment.
What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation?
• I want to continue researching group behavior in space analog environments. As a sociologist, I have a lot to contribute to this research mostly done by psychologists. Who knows, maybe one day I will be an in-house sociologist in a space agency?
Does your research have connections to or implications for COVID-19? Please explain.  Lockdowns and quarantines at home seem less glamorous than a trip to Mars, but similar gendered interactions occur whether one is stuck with their roommates in Iowa City, or in a spaceship heading towards another planet.


Iowa Magazine: The Lonely Planet: An Iowa Researcher’s Simulated Voyage to Mars

UI Graduate College: From Iowa to Mars: Studying Sociology at the Mars Desert Research Station

Banner location: online—