An interview with Anthony Yuen, our SGAC Co-Chair

By Harriet Brettle

On Apr 1, 2021, Anthony Yuen was elected as the incoming co-chair of SGAC! I sat down (virtually, unfortunately!) with Anthony, to learn more about his journey with SGAC and his plans for the future. 

HB: First of all, congratulations on your new position as Co-chair.  For those of you that do not know you, can you please introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us a little about your background! 

AY: Hi everyone.  Firstly, it is an honour to be elected as your Co-Chair.  Let’s keep this informal and give you the non-biographical version. 

I love space. I can’t remember a specific thing that launched the passion, whether it was a visit to the Kennedy Space Center, or the many space-related LEGO sets I own, or the many science fictions that I read (Arthur Clarke anyone?), but it was always there. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to do engineering or medicine, and in the end, did both.  I graduated from the University of Queensland in Australia with an undergraduate engineering degree in mechanical and space engineering and then a postgraduate medical degree. 

Unfortunately at that time in Australia, there were very limited opportunities in the space industry locally.  Most people who decided to pursue a career in space went overseas and I could never figure out how.  I did not know about SGAC then. Added to the fact that once you are in medicine, there is a path that almost everybody follows.  It was difficult to jump off. 

Eventually, a friend told me about space medicine and I decided to do all I can to pursue it. SGAC was where I really got my first exposure to the space industry. The first event that I went to was Fusion Forum and it was incredible to see all the different possibilities of working in the space industry.  I volunteered at SGAC initially on the Web Editors Team, then as the Web Coordinator, and then as the Treasurer.  I also co-founded and co-lead the Space Medicine and Life Sciences Project Group

Currently, I am an emergency medicine physician and a space medicine researcher at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.  My interest is in translating emerging technologies from informatics, digital health, and artificial intelligence into effective solutions in healthcare and space medicine. 

HB: You’ve been an active member since 2014, how did you first get involved with SGAC? 

AY: Believe it or not, while I had been deeply interested in space since high school (and probably since I was like 6 years old),  I did not seriously consider it as a career until 2014 – a full 10 years.  At that point in life, I had graduated from my studies and was doing my postgraduate speciality training as a doctor.  In fact, I was only introduced to the idea of space medicine two years prior at the International Congress of Aviation and Space Medicine 2012.  That was when I first realized that I can combine my two interests – space and medicine – into one. 

Once I decided to seriously pursue space medicine, I needed to develop my “space side”.  That is when I reached out to the only person I knew who was doing something in the space industry – Andrea Boyd.  Andrea was EUROCOM for ESA at that time and she reached her dreams in the same amount of time it took me to decide that I want to go into space medicine. She very generously reconnected with me and told me to get involved with SGAC, and the rest as they say, is history. 

As you can tell, SGAC has really been a launching pad for many space careers. I wonder often if I knew about SGAC back in my undergraduate degree, whether my career path would have been different. I am really grateful for how SGAC had impacted on my career. 

HB: If I remember correctly, we first met at the Space Generation Fusion Forum in 2017. There’s been a lot of SGAC events between now and then. What has been your most fun moment with SGAC so far? 

AY: This is a really hard question to answer. There had been so many great moments! 

If I have to pick one, it would be sitting with the Space Generation Fusion Forum team on our first evening together at the Golden Bee catching up on old times and sharing news. The unique thing is that we were informally joined by SGAC dinosaurs and SGAC partners who were there for the Space Symposium and we are all sitting together having a great time, singing to tunes from the live piano. I think I led the Waltzing Matilda for our group. I think it just embodies what SGAC means for many of us.  We work hard and we play hard. 

HB: SGAC is famous for being a global non-profit in the space industry.   According to you, what do you think is the main strength of SGAC? 

AY: The main strength of SGAC is always its people and the network.  When we put aside the day-to-day struggle we all face while balancing all the demands and deadlines we have in this voluntary position, there is something incredibly magical about a diverse group of people from all over the world all working towards the same dreams.  Countless times, I have heard how wonderful it is to go to a space event anywhere in the world and meet up with fellow SGAC members like old friends even though all you have ever done is exchanged emails and been on video conference calls. 

I think sometimes, people forget it is the relationships that matter most.  The space industry is still a relatively small field. Competition is healthy, but it is the comradery and community that makes our field special.  It is a huge pie and there are lots of opportunities for everyone.  Going to space, establishing a permanent presence in space, and exploring space, are all “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” that will demand many many talented people with diverse strengths and backgrounds to achieve. That’s what brings people together at SGAC, and also I believe, the space industry.

HB: What is your vision for SGAC in the next few years? And how do you see SGAC evolving in the future?   

AY: My overarching vision for SGAC is “Space for All”.  

SGAC has been transformative for many people, but only to those who were lucky enough to know SGAC.  One of the biggest challenges for SGAC is our reach and presence at local and national levels all across the world.  Commonly, I hear people telling me they have never heard of SGAC when they are in university studying a space topic. This is something we should change. 

The first part of my vision for SGAC is to strengthen our biggest asset – our network – all the way to the local university level.  We want any student and young professional interested in space globally to have heard of SGAC.  This means we should invest in our National Point of Contacts and our Regional Teams and better support their work. Our focus is to bring these global opportunities all the way to the local level. 

The second part is to broaden what SGAC offers for everyone.  A common question I hear when people first join SGAC is “how can I get involved now?”  SGAC is known for its high-quality events and this will not change, but events should not be the sole focus of our organisation.  Because of our size and our many established ties with the space industry, we have the potential to offer much more throughout each person’s career and journey in the space industry.  SGAC’s five core activities, apart from Events, are Scholarships, Project Groups, Policy & Advocacy, and Education & Professional Development.  Even if someone new joins SGAC, we should have a broad range of opportunities to help them take the first step. Our goal is to offer many points of activities and resources to support through all stages of space careers, from students all the way to well-connected young space professionals and leaders.  

HB: How do you plan to achieve your goals as SGAC co-chair? 

AY: SGAC is a huge organisation.  My approach as Co-Chair is to facilitate ideas and proposals into successful projects and outcomes. There are many challenges and opportunities within SGAC.  I invite you to contact me about your ideas and your suggestions. I will then combine that with existing opportunities or form new teams to tackle these challenges. Some of the up and coming initiatives include:

  • Online Education and Professional Development Program
  • Leadership Development Forum for National Points of Contact
  • SGAC community and discussion through Slack
  • Policy and advocacy activities

HB: Anything you want to tell our community as you just started your new role? 

AY: I love to hear your ideas, so feel free to contact me by email at [email protected] 

My virtual door is also always open, so feel free to book an appointment with me on   This app will show you all the available openings on my schedule and set up the virtual meeting information as well.