From the Classroom to the Cosmos, TAMU-CC Professor Trains as Aspiring Astronaut

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – At the Island University, Dr. Ron Snarr not only reaches the minds of his students, but he’s also reaching for the stars. Snarr, Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, delicately balances his teaching duties with his training to become an aspiring astronaut. He describes his desire to become a man of flight as a persistent ambition.   

“It’s been a lifelong dream, a dream that was reinforced throughout college, as many of my professors were either previous astronauts or did consulting with NASA,” Snarr said. “My goal is to do research and collect data in space. Instead of just studying how humans are affected within this environment, how might they be affected on other planets with the future Mars missions?”

While NASA may be the first name that comes to mind for space exploration, Snarr reveals that it’s not the only route. As an aspiring astronaut, Snarr is engaged with the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS), where scientists work collaboratively in cohorts and are prepared for prospective roles as astronauts. Recently, he and his team were in the top 100 out of 5,500 global participants in the NASA Space Apps Challenge where they presented previous NASA mission data in a new and interesting way.

Snarr recounts the training he received on a recent trip to IIAS facilities in Florida, from hypoxia exercises that help the trainees identify signs they are low on oxygen, to experiencing microgravity and G-force flights. Through his interest in the field of bioastronautics, Snarr is determined to contribute to the understanding of the impact of space travel on the human body.

“At my trainings, I get to learn from all these different individuals including aerospace engineers, navy ship mechanics, and nuclear powerplant mechanics,” he said. “Then, I have the ability to come back to campus with that training and share it with my students.”

Snarr’s enthusiasm for space and his eagerness to give details of his experiences have sparked interest among his students, including Amanda Geneva ’25, kinesiology major.

“Dr. Snarr is so knowledgeable about the human body,” Geneva said. “He can explain to the class how his training is physically affecting him and how it applies it to what we are learning. Recently he explained to the class how high altitude affected him when he trained in the mountains and his cardiac stroke output was reduced, causing fatigue. He has inspired me to stay educated and continue researching how the human body works.”

Snarr’s colleagues are also rooting for his success. Dr. Don Melrose, Interim Dean of the TAMU-CC College of Education and Human Development and Professor and Chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Military Science, notes how seamlessly Snarr fit into the Islander community since his arrival in summer 2022 and the immediate impact he has had on his students.

“Dr. Snarr has an amazing work capacity and work ethic,” Melrose said. “Between his position here at TAMU-CC, his ongoing education, and his dreams of going to space, he can do it all. I hope he makes it far enough to be chosen for a mission someday. It would be amazing to have one of our professors do what very few other people have done.”

Snarr admits that his trajectory through higher education wasn’t a smooth one. He was the first in his family to attend college. Once he got to college, he said he lacked the focus and motivation for the rigor of a pre-medical program. After taking some time off from school to work with his father in carpentry and some other jobs in retail and personal fitness, he said he accumulated enough life experience and maturity to realize he wanted to go back to college to finish his bachelor’s degree. It wasn’t until he landed his first teaching job that the idea of pursuing graduate school became appealing. He applied to grad school and eventually earned a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology and Human Performance from The University of Alabama in 2017. Snarr said he openly shares his story with his students to encourage them to follow their dreams no matter how irregular or indirect their path may be.

“I hope I can motivate students to think about career fields that they may never have thought about, and that it is possible to do things that you only dream about,” Snarr said. “One day, I’m potentially going to be an astronaut and go to space. You can’t let anybody tell you it cannot be done.”