Born in Mishawaka, IN, Neil Scheibelhut has always had an interest in space, and mankind’s desire to explore it. Some of his earliest memories include early mornings with Jack Horkheimer (“Keep looking up!”) and road trips to view Halley’s Comet. A member of the Young Astronaut’s Club, his childhood included building and launching model rockets, stargazing, and being awed by Space Shuttle launches and landings. This childhood passion has stayed with him into adulthood.
Neil is a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom III, serving as an infantry medic. After receiving a medical discharge, he became a Medical Assistant Instructor in Cleveland, OH, and eventually returned to school himself, obtaining a BA in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, graduating with high honors. During his time in Hawai’i, Neil volunteered at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy, and was involved with research that included NASA’s RESOLVE moon rover analog test, USDA research on rat lungworm disease, and the first HI-SEAS mission. He is currently working as a microbiologist in Los Angeles, CA, and plans to pursue a MS in Molecular Biology and Bioengineering from the University of Hawai’i, beginning in the Fall of 2015.
Neil’s research interest focuses on the power of microbes, bacteria, in particular, to perform specific tasks. In the same way bacteria is used to perform human insulin (by inserting the DNA sequence that produces the life-saving protein), the belief is that other tasks can be performed as well, such as hydrolyzing water to produce oxygen and hydrogen, two gasses that are extremely useful for say, a mission to Mars. It is his hope, that if he is not able to go to Mars himself, he can help his fellow man get there through his research.