Overview of Undergraduate Participation in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program

A University of Maryland finalist team for SSEP Mission 13 to the International Space Station presenting under Space Shuttle Discovery (is this cool enough?) at the 2019 SSEP National Conference. The Conference was held July 1-2, 2019, at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Visit the 2019 Conference page. Click on the photo to zoom

The research experiences afforded by the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program extend beyond the pre-college classroom. SSEP was designed as a STEM pipeline program, capable of immerse students in a formal research competition across grades 5 through 16 (pre-college 5-12, and undergraduate 13-16).

There are multiple SSEP communities that focus on undergraduate students across diverse science disciplines – even students majoring in science and STEM education – at 4-year colleges and universities, and 2-year community colleges. Listed below are the community profiles for 7 undergraduate communities that have participated in SSEP to date. Provided for each community is an overview of their strategic needs in STEM education and how SSEP addresses those needs, along with abstracts of their flight experiments, and video clips of student research teams presenting at the annual SSEP National Conference at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. You are invited to explore the 2019 SSEP National Conference to be held July 1-2, which will take place next to Space Shuttle Discovery at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Engagement: For a pre-college SSEP community, typically 300+ grade 5-12 students are engaged in microgravity experiment design, resulting in 50-100 flight experiment proposals across the community. For an undergraduate SSEP community, with a higher level of experiment sophistication, and a higher level of required mentorship by faculty, the typical student engagement is no more than 30, with 7-10 flight experiment proposals. In each community one proposed experiment is selected for flight through a 2-step proposal review process.

Read about the SSEP Step 2 National Review Board that selected the 41 SSEP flight experiments for Mission 13 to ISS. The Mission 13 experiments payload Gemini is launching on SpaceX-18 from Kennedy Space Center in summer 2019, and includes experiments from 3 undergraduate communities: the University of Maryland, Stockton University, and the University of Pittsburgh (see abstracts below).

Designated Spaceflight Programs: It is noteworthy that the University of Maryland has participated in 4 consecutive SSEP Missions (Mission 10 through 13), and is back aboard for Mission 14 starting in September 2019. Stockton University has participated in 3 Missions, and is also back aboard for Mission 14. Those communities participating in at least 3 Missions, and which are still active in SSEP, are designed as Spaceflight Programs, given these communities indeed have a continuing space program of their own, launching an experiment each year for operation in low Earth orbit by the astronauts.

Overarching University Involvement in SSEP: It should also be noted that 33 Space Grant lead universities have partnered on SSEP, whether supporting an undergraduate or pre-college SSEP community program in their State. You’re invited to explore participation in SSEP by these universities at the SSEP National Partners page, under the section titled The National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program.

 

1. Bridgeport, Connecticut – University of Bridgeport

Strategic Needs in STEM Education and the Case for SSEP
The SSEP program is designed to expose students to STEM research fields while motivating and encouraging them to adopt best research practices with real-world application. Implementation of SSEP at UB will expand the involvement of undergraduate students including underrepresented groups in STEM research activities that encourage innovative thinking. Students will learn how to implement a research proposal timeline that includes research planning, proposal writing, and proposal submission. Students will also develop an appreciation for essential criteria that define a meritorious research proposal. Furthermore, SSEP promotes an interdisciplinary “Team Science” approach that is increasingly preferred over solo research in the production of knowledge and the acceleration of scientific breakthrough. Under guidance from UB mentors, SSEP student research teams will understand that leadership, goals, products, and rewards are shared. Team members will learn to develop a shared vision. Teams will also learn communication skills, how to build trust, and deal with conflict in a proactive manner. It is also extremely important to teach our students the process of creating and evaluating knowledge, it is equally important to convey that research is an intellectual process that creates and publishes relevant new knowledge – a process that is a token of academic research quality.

While K-12 students are not engaged in experimental design and proposal writing, their involvement in the Mission Patch Competition will enhance their awareness and exposure to STEM activities. Towards this end, during the design competition, students will be instructed on the purpose and objective of an SSEP flight Mission. Furthermore, mission patch winners will be honored at the Discovery Museum during the Monday of Engineers Week.

Partner Institutions
University of Bridgeport

NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium

SSEP Mission Participation
Mission 12 to ISS

Colleges/Campuses Engaging Students in Microgravity Experiment Design: University of Bridgeport

Number of Students Engaged in Experiment Design: 35 (grades 13, 14, 16)
Number of Flight Experiment Proposals: 10

Mission Patch Art and Design Competition: pre-college outreach, two competitions; (grades 4-8), (grades 9-12)
Participating Institutions: Discovery Interdistrict Magnet School, Theodore Roosevelt School, Bridgeport Military Academy, Geraldine Claytor Magnet Academy, The Fairchild Wheeler Magnet Campus
Competition Description and Flight Patches

SSEP Community Program Co-Directors
Ruba Deeb
rubadeeb@bridgeport.edu

Jessica Nelson
jesnelso@bridgeport.edu

Jani Pallis
jpallis@bridgeport.edu

Nancy DeJarnette
Ndejarne@bridgeport.edu

 

Mission 12 Flight Experiment

The Effect of Microgravity on Nanoparticle-Cellular Interaction
Grades 15-16, University of Bridgeport
Co-Principal Investigators: Feissal Djoule, Emily Juliano
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Issac Macwan

Biology undergraduate students Emily Juliano and Feissal Djoule working on their project with mentor Dr. Isaac Macwan from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UB.

Proposal Summary:
A cell contains numerous proteins on its surface and in the cytoplasm that carry out a variety of functions. Maleimide – functionalized Graphene quantum dots (m-GQDs) have the ability to attach or “tag” both cell surface and intracellular proteins in the gravitational setting. Such quantum dots have photoluminescent properties, which can be utilized for tagging the cysteine residue on the proteins thereby using them towards bio-imaging applications. This experiment proposes whether m-GQDs will have a stable binding onto the cellular surface and intracellular proteins found in Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) mammalian cells under the influence of microgravity. If this is found to be successful, it can provide useful information for studying the effects of microgravity on a physiological system based on the way proteins behave compared to a gravitational setting. The basic principle of this procedure can be further utilized to study many other cellular processes under the influence of microgravity by simply tracking these “tagged” cellular proteins under a fluorescence microscope.

 

 

2. Washington, DC – DC Space Grant University Community

Strategic Needs in STEM Education and the Case for SSEP
In response to the nation’s need for more qualified K-12 STEM educators, as identified in the February 2012 Coordinating Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Investments: Progress Report, the DC Space Grant Consortium (DCSGC) proposed to NASA an innovative suite of programs designed to immerse junior and senior education majors at all accredited Washington, DC, area universities offering undergraduate degrees in education, particularly students from underrepresented groups, in STEM-related activities. Proposed activities would support the students’ efforts to seek an education degree, increase their knowledge of STEM, and bolster their confidence to teach K-12 STEM after graduation. The proposal was selected by NASA for full funding, and one component of that suite of programs was SSEP.

SSEP will enable the students to experience and participate in authentic scientific experimentation while developing team-building skills. This opportunity is a real world experience that breaks from the model of traditional teaching and creates excitement for students.

The experimental design phase of SSEP will help increase students’ knowledge of STEM, and the processes by which real research is conducted. They will learn how to conduct hands-on experiments in microgravity. The proposal and competition phase of SSEP will provide valuable experience for students to apply for grants when they become teachers. They will learn about cooperation and competition for resources. The community engagement phase of SSEP will bolster students’ confidence to teach K-12 STEM after graduation. They will be working with their peers at the program level, and seeing the real-time rewards of the program at the national level.

Partner Institutions
District of Columbia Space Grant Consortium (DCSGC), on behalf of the NASA K-12 STEM Educator Program

American University
Catholic University
Howard University
George Washington University
Georgetown University
University of Maryland
Montgomery College

SSEP Mission Participation
Mission 6 to ISS

Colleges/Campuses Engaging Students in Microgravity Experiment Design: American University, Catholic University, Howard University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, University of Maryland Montgomery College

Number of Students Engaged in Experiment Design: 27 (grades 13-16)
Number of Flight Experiment Proposals: 7

SSEP Community Program Co-Directors
Eric Day
day@spacegrant.org

Megan Kemble
mkemble@american.edu

 

Mission 6 Flight Experiment

The Effects of Microgravity on the Development of Chrysanthemum morifolium Seeds
Sophomores and Juniors, The George Washington University and Georgetown University
Co-Principal Investigators: Thomas Burchfield, Maryellen Campbell, Jun Xi Ni, and Shayda Shahbazi
Teacher Facilitator: Sarah Miller, Professor of the Practice at Georgetown University

Students prepare to load chrysanthemum seeds and soil samples into mini-lab for NanoRacks.

Proposal Summary:
The air we breathe plays an integral role in human health. Indoor air pollution can cause detrimental health effects such as sick-building syndrome and cancer. These health problems become problematic when considering the enclosed nature of space vehicles. Research has found that Chrysanthemum morifolium plants are able to remove harmful toxins from the air. The goal of this experiment is to expand upon this research and determine if these plants could be used to purify the air on [crewed] space vehicles. In order to ensure that Chrysanthemum morifolium plants can be used for extended periods of time, it would be beneficial for the plants to successfully reproduce to guarantee their air purifying effects during long-term space exploration. Therefore, this experiment will determine the ability of Chrysanthemum morifolium seeds to germinate in a microgravity environment. Seeds, potting mix, and distilled water will be used to initiate the germination process in space. After returning to Earth, the seeds will be planted alongside a control group and the growth rates of the two groups will be compared. Finally, seeds will be cultivated from each group and it will be determined if seeds from a plant in the experimental group can germinate and grow into a healthy plant. The results of this proposed experiment may provide a means for NASA to adequately purify space vehicles, even for long-term space flights. This strategy could improve spaceflight passenger health by reducing the prevalence of pollutant-associated health problems.

 

 

3. University System of Maryland Spaceflight Program

Strategic Needs in STEM Education and the Case for SSEP
University-level students of STEM are at a crucial stage of their learning in which they must apply theoretical concepts into practice, translating them to real-world applications, as they will soon join the workforce or enter graduate studies. Through M10-12, the USM SSEP Community Program has enabled students of our university system to cultivate these skills by participation in the planning of real science experiments, while developing writing, argumentation, and team-building capabilities.

By designing experiments that, if selected, will fly to the SSEP and produce real results, the students experience first-hand the processes by which research is conducted. By writing a proposal under competitive conditions, and with provided feedback, the students experience a version of the real-world process of grant application, which is mostly a team-based competitive effort that involves receiving reviewers’ comments and often resubmitting after implementing these comments. In all previous USM SSEP missions, winning students have been able to establish professional relationships with researchers to gain access to laboratory materials and space for FME tube loading and analyses.

Partner Institutions
University System of Maryland

Maryland Space Grant Consortium
University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences
University of Maryland Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics
University of Maryland Department of Physics
University of Maryland Department of Mathematics
University of Maryland The Fischell Department of Bioengineering
University of Maryland Department of Aerospace Engineering

SSEP Mission Participation
Mission 13 to ISS

Colleges/Campuses Engaging Students in Microgravity Experiment Design: University of Maryland College Park

Number of Students Engaged in Experiment Design: 99 (grades 13-16)
Number of Flight Experiment Proposals: 10

Mission 12 to ISS

Colleges/Campuses Engaging Students in Microgravity Experiment Design: University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore County

Number of Students Engaged in Experiment Design: 33 (grades 13-16)
Number of Flight Experiment Proposals: 8

Mission Patch Art and Design Competition: one competition; (grades 13-16)
Participating Institutions: Frostburg State University, Towson University
Competition Description and Flight Patches

Mission 11 to ISS

Colleges/Campuses Engaging Students in Microgravity Experiment Design: University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore County

Number of Students Engaged in Experiment Design: 40 (grades 13-15)
Number of Flight Experiment Proposals: 10

Mission Patch Art and Design Competition: one competition; (grades 13-16)
Participating Institutions: University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Frostburg State University
Competition Description and Flight Patches

Mission 10 to ISS

Colleges/Campuses Engaging Students in Microgravity Experiment Design: University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore County

Number of Students Engaged in Experiment Design: 34 (grades 13-16)
Number of Flight Experiment Proposals: 8

SSEP Community Program Co-Directors
Natasha Ivanina
ivaninatasha@gmail.com

Daniel Serrano
dsvolpe@umd.edu

 

Mission 13 Flight Experiment

Biofilm Adhesion of E. coli to Annealed Porous and Smooth Aluminum in Microgravity
Grade 13, University of Maryland College Park, University System of Maryland
Co-Principal Investigators: Debbie Adam, Michelle Fang, Niki Gooya, Pali Keppertipola, Apurva Raghu
Teacher Facilitator: Natasha Ivanina

Debbie Adam, Niki Gooya, and Michelle Fang (left to right) perform preliminary experiments with LB broth and FME tubes while Apurva Raghu analyzes E. coli bacterial cultures (Swarnapali M. Keppetipola not pictured).

Proposal Summary:
Biofilms are communities of microorganisms with complex physiologies which can facilitate the development of diseases like atherosclerosis and leptospirosis. This poses a risk for health and wellness of astronauts in confined environments, meaning that deterring biofilm growth is of extreme importance on long haul missions. The great structural diversity of these microbial systems contributes to its acquisition of resistance towards antimicrobial substances through generational selection. In addition to illness, biofilms in space may obstruct the function of critical equipment. Such equipment is often constructed of aluminum alloys, as its low production costs combined with high malleability facilitate the formation of a wide range of innovative designs. We propose an experiment that analyzes the adhesion of Escherichia coli on porous and smooth aluminum surfaces to determine if smoother surfaces of aluminum garner more bacterial adhesion in a microgravity setting than a porous one. Research indicates that E. coli is capable of biofilm formation, and known for microbial surface colonization. Earlier inquiries into biofilm formation on porous surfaces show reduced microbial attachment and formation. We intend to see whether or not these results are analogous or contingent in a weightless environment. In the event we observe elevated microbial formation on annealed smooth aluminum, our experiment will suggest concurrence with current research findings. Additionally, it would be recommended that the equipment used on the International Space Station be made of porous materials. Following mission completion, biofilm growth on both the annealed porous and annealed smooth aluminum samples will be analyzed via confocal microscopy.

 

Mission 12 Flight Experiment

The Effect of Microgravity on Bacteriophage Replication and Infectivity
Grade 15, University of Maryland College Park, University System of Maryland
Co-Principal Investigators: Rushi Challa, Natalie Ivanina
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Daniel Serrano

Rushi Challa (Biology and Psychology double major at UMD College Park) and Natasha Ivanina (Biology: Cell Biology & Genetics major at UMD College Park) perform FME volume optimization measurements in Dan Nelson’s bacteriophage lab at the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research.

Proposal Summary:
The 21st century is the time for introduction of bacteriophage therapy for disinfection of food and water, in addition to the replacement of antibiotics. Bacteriophages are effective and environmentally-friendly viruses that destroy bacteria, yet remain harmless to humans. Studies on the ISS have uncovered that extreme environmental conditions of space, including low gravitational pull and radiation from galactic cosmic rays, induce greater mutation rates and bacterial changes such as increased biomass, metabolic activity, and antibiotic resistance (observed as a thicker-developed peptidoglycan cell wall) compared to bacteria on Earth. In addressing these growing features and resistance, our project focuses on the effect of microgravity on the infectivity rate of a T4 bacteriophage, opening the question of whether or not phage effectiveness will heighten or appear compromised in microgravity. We propose sending freeze-dried samples of T4 bacteriophages and their target bacteria, E. coli, into orbit. Upon arrival both will be activated, bacteria will begin to replicate, and the phages will start their infection cycles. After a two-day time period, we will fix the samples and bring them back to Earth for analysis through transcriptome profiling and observing gene expression changes induced by the microgravity environment. Observing these factors could reveal greater expression of genes coding for certain infection enzymes of the phages, such as integrase (thus, a greater infectivity rate). In the event that we observe a heightened efficacy of phage activity complementary to the respective bacterial growth, this may suggest that bacteriophages could provide a powerful alternative to traditional antibacterial agents.

 

Mission 11 Flight Experiment

Inhibition of P. Aeruginosa Biofilm Formation with Silver Impregnated Antimicrobial Silicone in Microgravity
Grade 14, University of Maryland College Park, University System of Maryland
Co-Principal Investigators: Stacey Audrey Mannuel, Colton Justis Treadway
Teacher Facilitator: Rachel Manthe

University System of Maryland, Maryland

Stacey Mannuel and Colton Treadway (left to right) measure the components of the medium needed for their experiment.

Proposal Summary:
Here we propose a method to comparatively analyze the effect of antibacterial material on the growth of P. aeruginosa biofilm in micro-gravitational conditions. Biofilms are a large concern in the medical field due to its resistance to antibiotics and ability to cause infections. Additionally, they also pose a problem in the maintenance of space instruments and astronaut health. Our team proposes to test the new technology of silver-based antimicrobial silicone rubber by growing P. aeruginosa biofilms on both non-modified silicone and antimicrobial silicone in our FME. P. aeruginosa was chosen because it is a well-studied model for general biofilm formation. Previous research has demonstrated that the lack of physical stresses in microgravity promotes biofilm formation. Though silver-based antimicrobial silicone has been shown to reduce P. aeruginosa biofilm formation by 95% in normal ground conditions, we wish to see how it performs under low-shear conditions that are experienced in space in order to better understand its efficacy as medical implants. Furthermore, we hope that our data will reinforce the current research surrounding space biofilm formation and determine whether or not the ion mechanism of the silver-based antimicrobial silicone can successfully prevent biofilm growth. Upon return from the ISS, the biofilm grown on both the unmodified and antimicrobial silicone will be collected and compared to a ground control experiment via confocal microscopy analysis.

 

Title: Inhibition of P. Aeruginosa Biofilm with Antimicrobial Silicone in Microgravity
Oral Presentation,
8th Annual SSEP National Conferencence, June 2018
University of Maryland College Park
Grade levels: 14-15

Type of Experiment: Flight Experiment, Mission 11

Principal Investigator: Stacey Mannuel
Co-Investigator: Colton Treadway, Niall Cope, Emma Mirizio
Advisor: Dr. Birthe Kjellerup
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Daniel Serrano

Abstract: Our experiment analyzes the effect of antibacterial silicone on the growth of P. aeruginosa biofilm in micro-gravitational conditions. Biofilms pose a problem in the maintenance of space instruments and astronaut health. Freeze-dried P. aeruginosa bacteria were activated with media on A=0 and allowed to grow on both non-modified silicone and antimicrobial silicone before being fixed on A+2. For analysis, our biofilm samples grown on the two surfaces will be compared to a ground control experiment via confocal microscopy analysis.

 

Mission 10 Flight Experiment

Bacterial Motility in Microgravity
Grade 15, University of Maryland College Park
Co-Principal Investigators: Yaniv Kazansky, Aaron Solomon, Garshasb Soroosh
Advisor: Dr. Wade Winkler
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Kenneth Frauwirth

University System of Maryland, Maryland

Yaniv Kazansky, Aaron Solomon, and Garshasb Soroosh (left to right) perform a test loading of their fluid mixing enclosure (FME) to optimize the volumes needed in their experiment. Photo credit: Faye Levine, Graphic Designer at UMD CMNS Communications.

Proposal Summary:
Long-term space habitation poses numerous issues for astronaut health, including the prevention and treatment of infectious disease. NASA has made public its concern for the threat posed by infectious bacteria to long-term manned missions, and has conducted experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) to determine how microgravity affects pathogens. This prior research suggests that bacterial motility, a crucial component of many infections, is increased aboard the ISS. Our study seeks to confirm these findings and elucidate which bacterial genes specifically are responsible for modified motility, in the hope of better understanding how disease-causing pathogenic bacteria act in space. We will send dormant bacterial spores of Bacillus subtilis to the ISS, where they will be activated, allowed to grow and divide, and then preserved in microgravity before returning to Earth. We will explore if microgravity causes the bacteria to express (activate or deactivate) their genes differently compared to an identical control sample grown on Earth. This change is recorded in the mRNA produced by the bacteria, and any changes in the number of mRNA molecules and the individual sequence codes of each mRNA strand can be determined using RNA sequencing. The sequence data can then be processed via high-throughput bioinformatic techniques, allowing determination of which bacterial genes are differentially expressed in microgravity, and the molecular pathways that underlie them. This study will shed light on how bacterial motility differs in space, and serve as a critical step in safeguarding astronauts from acquiring infectious disease.

 

Title: Bacterial Motility in Microgravity
Oral Presentation, 6th Annual SSEP National Conference, June 2016
University of Maryland College Park
Grade level: 15

Type of Experiment: Flight Experiment, Mission 10

Co-Principal Investigators: Yaniv Kazansky, Aaron Solomon, Garshasb Soroosh
Collaborator: Wade Winkler
Teacher Facilitator: Kenneth Frauwirth

Abstract: Pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria are a threat to long-term space travel, and microgravity has been shown to enhance pathogenicity. This experiment will assess the role of microgravity on expression of pathogenicity genes by bacterium Bacilus subtilis. B. subtilis endospores will be sent to the ISS and activated in microgravity. Growth will be stopped and mRNA will be preserved before reentry. We will analyze mRNA levels (through RNAseq) on the ISS sample and a ground control, providing information on gene expression.

 

 

4. Stockton University Spaceflight Program, Galloway, New Jersey

Strategic Needs in STEM Education and the Case for SSEP
The School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NAMS) and the Stockton STEM Collaborative (SSC) at Stockton University (SU) again proposes to lead SU’s participation in our third consecutive Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) mission, Mission 13, to the International Space Station (ISS). The SU program proposes to engage a minimum of 30 undergraduate students in the development of an authentic research competition to design and implement microgravity experiments (physical, chemical, biological, and/or physiological) that will culminate in one SU experimental design being chosen and flown to the ISS for exposure to microgravity conditions.

The program will be organized around a general Natural Sciences and Mathematics course (GNM) in the School of General Studies (GNM 2800- Student Spaceflight Experiments Program). This will allow students in any major (including science majors) to enroll in the course to help fulfil their general studies science requirements. This format will also emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of modern science.

It is anticipated that the competition, like our current SSEP Mission 12, will engage not only the participating students but will also engage the STEM community both at Stockton and our local K-12 districts. This will be achieved through the mission patch competition and presenting the project and work to local schools.

A key partner for this effort is the Stockton STEM Collaborative that includes many elements of the University community involved in STEM education and engagement with K-12 STEM educators. This group includes participants from the SU Schools of Education; General Studies; Health Sciences; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; and Social and Behavioral Sciences, as well as members of the Provosts office and the Office of Student Affairs. The STEM Collaborative’s goal is to recruit and retain talented students, particularly from underrepresented groups into the STEM disciplines at SU. The project objectives are: 1) Promoting collaboration and sharing of STEM/STEAM education resources across the University; 2) Increasing the number of K through college pathways to STEM education for underserved populations; 3) Improve recruitment and retention working with Admissions, the Equal Opportunity Fund (EOF) and the First Year Program; 4) Coordinate funding opportunities to maximize successful grant seeking; 5) Cross-market existing Stockton STEM K-12 outreach programs (e.g. Summer Enrichment Academy at Stockton and Tech Trek residential camps, Office of Naval Research Sea Perch and the Jersey Shore Science fair). Part of the STEM Collaborative’s mission is to develop a corps of SU students and faculty to engage with the K-12 community and SU underclasspersons with curricular workshops featuring innovative STEM concepts and demonstrations. The SSEP project interfaces with all of these objectives. The School of General Studies is supporting the project through academic credit in the General Natural Sciences and Mathematics curriculum. The School of Education is supporting the project through the STEM Collaborative, facilitation of K-12 outreach, and through recruiting of students dual majoring in teacher education and STEM disciplines.

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) fits well into Stockton’s vision for our students to develop critical thinking skills and an understanding of the scientific method as well as to participate in serious undergraduate research. As SSEP is an authentic research project and includes elements of hypothesis generation, experimental design, participation in proposal development and review, data analysis and presentation. The program meets the learning objectives for our General Natural Sciences and Mathematics and many of our disciplinary major curriculums. The School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics has a tradition of fostering undergraduate research and the SSEP allows us to involve larger number of students in this research and to prepare students to develop the skills they need to be successful in practicing science as graduate students, research technicians or educators. The SSEP also has become an important outreach to the local K-12 STEM community, which is an important community service and also serves to make pre-college students aware of the many science degrees that they could earn at Stockton.

Partner Institutions
Stockton University

New Jersey Space Grant Consortium

SSEP Mission Participation
Mission 13 to ISS

Colleges/Campuses Engaging Students in Microgravity Experiment Design: Stockton University

Number of Students Engaged in Experiment Design: 7 (grades 13-16)
Number of Flight Experiment Proposals: 5

Mission Patch Art and Design Competition: two competitions; (grades K-8), (grades 9-12)
Participating Institutions: Absegami High School, Atlantic City High School, Brighton Avenue School, Cedar Creek High School, Dr. Joyanne D. Miller School, Edgene A. Tighe School, Fernwood Middle School, Hammonton High School, Manalapan High School, Nellie F. Bennett Elementary School, Northfield Community School, Point Pleasant Beach High School, Port Republic School, Roland Rogers School, Sovereign Avenue School, Toms River Intermediate North, William Davies Middle School
Competition Description and Flight Patches

Mission 12 to ISS

Colleges/Campuses Engaging Students in Microgravity Experiment Design: Stockton University

Number of Students Engaged in Experiment Design: 14 (grades 13-16)
Number of Flight Experiment Proposals: 7

Mission Patch Art and Design Competition: two competitions; (grades K-8), (grades 9-16)
Participating Institutions: Stockton University, Alder Ave Middle School, Atlantic County Institute of Technology, Avalon Elementary School, Brigantine North Middle School, Cedar Creek High School, Dawes Avenue Elementary School, Eagleswood Township Elementary School, Eugene A. Tighe Middle School, Manalapan High School, Nellie F. Bennett Elementary School, Northfield Community School, Pineland Regional Junior High School, Point Pleasant Beach High School, Port Republic School, Roland Rogers Elementary School, Southern Regional Middle School, Toms River Intermediate North, William Davies Middle School
Competition Description and Flight Patches

Mission 11 to ISS

Colleges/Campuses Engaging Students in Microgravity Experiment Design: Stockton University

Number of Students Engaged in Experiment Design: 28 (grades 13-16)
Number of Flight Experiment Proposals: 11

Mission Patch Art and Design Competition: two competitions; (grades K-12), (grades 13-16)
Participating Institutions: Stockton University, William Davies Middle School, Chelsea Heights School, Absegami High School, J.A. Citta Elementary School, Tom Rivers Intermediate School, West Dover Elementary School
Competition Description and Flight Patches

SSEP Community Program Director
Peter Straub
peter.straub@stockton.edu

 

Mission 13 Flight Experiment

Analysis of Double-stranded Break Repair in Haploid Saccharomyces cerevisiae Under Spaceflight Conditions
Grades 13-16, Stockton University
Co-Principal Investigators: Matthew Elko, Joseph Romanowski, Daniel Stoyko
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Michael Law

Undergraduate Stockton University students Daniel Stoyko , Mathew Elko and Joseph Romanowski prepare yeast for their Mission 13 SSEP experiment on mutation in space (photo credit Susan Allen).

Proposal Summary:
With the advancement of space age, humans spend increasing amounts of time in spaceflight. To ensure their well-being, all health-risks associated with spaceflight conditions have to be studied in great detail. Arguably, the most concerning of such risks is DNA damage which may contribute to cancer. Double-strand breaks in DNA (DSB) are well known to be causes of chromosomal aberrations that result in carcinogenesis. One of the pathways responsible for the repair of such DSBs is non-homologous end joining (NHEJ). Although NHEJ generally prevents cancer, there is sufficient data suggesting that NHEJ is the cause of carcinogenesis in certain conditions. For this reason, it is important to study the mechanics of NHEJ under microgravity and space radiation (spaceflight conditions). This project will use type 3 FME NanoRacks mini-lab to expose actively dividing Saccharomyces cerevisiae to bleomycin, a DSB inducing agent, for two days. The experiment will then be stopped by fixation using a final concentration of 4% paraformaldehyde. Once the sample returns to Earth, DSB repair will be quantified using a combination of cytological and molecular assays that can measure unresolved DSBs. The data from these methods will provide information regarding rate of DSB repair, expression of NHEJ related genes, and rate of mutations induced by NHEJ in spaceflight compared to on Earth.

 

Mission 12 Flight Experiment

The Effects of Microgravity on PGMA Based Self-Assembly and Impacts on Drug Delivery Systems
Grades 13-14, Stockton University
Co-Principal Investigators: Daniel Schneider, Christina Tallone
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Pamela Cohn

Stockton students Christina Tallone and Daniel Schneider work with Dr. Pamela Cohn to optimize crosslinker reagents to study the effects of microgravity on self-assembly of drug delivery systems.

Proposal Summary:
With the emergence of controlled release pharmaceuticals and their benefits in our society, the proposed experiment will contribute valuable information to this new field of study. Hydrogel drug delivery systems are incredibly valuable and used in several important aspects of medicine: from anti-cancer drugs to insulin. However while assembling, hydrophobic drugs, like many psychoactive medications, form polydispersed micelles and are not useful in drug systems. Polydispersed micelles are unpredictable and deliver medicines at varying rates. There is currently no known method for assembling monodispersed micelles around hydrophobic molecules. The proposed experiment will test to see if microgravity conditions will result in monodispersed micelles, which could be used for drug delivery. The experiment includes the self-assembly of PEGMA around indigo dye, a hydrophobic molecule, in place of a drug. An PEG dithiol crosslinker will add stability to the micelles formed. With the addition of microgravity, we are intending to find monodispersed micelle formation. If microgravity leads to monodispersed micelles, the more favorable formation, pharmaceutical companies can use this information in preparation of these important drugs, that otherwise cannot be delivered using these systems. Outside of pharmaceuticals, this experiment could also have future implications for drug delivery applications with humans participating in space travel, progressing the research of hydrogels, and the increasing the level understanding of self-assembly as a whole.

 

Title: The Effects of Microgravity on PGMA Based Self-Assembly and Impacts on Drug Delivery Systems
Oral Presentation,
8th Annual SSEP National Conference, June 2018
Stockton University
Grade levels: 13-14

Type of Experiment: Flight Experiment, Mission 12

Co-Principal Investigators: Daniel Schneider, Christina Tallone
Investigator: Chioma Uka
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Pamela Cohn

Abstract: The experiment will address the problem of polydispersity of hydrophobic drug molecules when encapsulated by polymers under normal Earth conditions. The proposed experiment will test to see if microgravity conditions will result in monodispersed micelles, which could be used for drug delivery. The experiment includes the self-assembly of PEGMA around indigo dye, a hydrophobic molecule, in place of a drug. A PEG-dithiol crosslinker will add stability to the micelles formed.

 

Mission 11 Flight Experiment

Spores in Space: The Effects of Microgravity on Endomycorrhizae
Grade 14, Stockton University
Co-Principal Investigators: Danielle Ertz, Valkyrie Falciani
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Tara Luke

Galloway, New Jersey

Stockton University students Valkyrie Falciani and Danielle Ertz setting up a preliminary experiment with flax seeds in an FME.

Proposal Summary:
The human race is moving closer and closer to long term space travel to explore beyond our blue planet and this has posed some interesting challenges. One of the main problems we face is growing our own long lasting food supply in microgravity. While a lot of work has been done to study plant growth in space, we believe that agriculture in microgravity can be improved by studying mycorrhizae: the mutualist relationship between plants and fungi. This relationship has been shown, on Earth, to greatly increase the productivity of agriculturally important plant species. We propose to study this by using the type 3 FME Mini Lab to combine Glomus invermaium, a species of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus, and Linum usitatissimum, or flax, on the International Space Station (ISS), and then compare the results to a ground truth experiment. No matter the outcome of the experiment there is valuable information that we can gain that will aid space travel in the future.

 

Title: The Effects of Microgravity on Endomycorrhizae
Oral Presentation, 8th Annual SSEP National Conference, June 2018
Stockton University
Grade level: Undergraduate

Type of Experiment: Flight Experiment, Mission 11

Co-Principal Investigators: Danielle Ertz, Valkyrie Falciani, Hannah Sandler
Co-Investigators: Francisca Ekekwe, Ariel Petchel, Chedecia Low, Megan Pierce
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Tara Luke

Abstract: The purpose of the experiment was to combine Rhizophagus intraradices, a species of arbuscular mycorrhizae, and Linum usitatissimum, or flax, to test the mutualistic relationship between the two organisms in a microgravity environment and compare our results to the trials on Earth. After the experiment returned from space, it was examined and was prepped for analysis. We determined that the spores that were within microgravity conditions had produced more reproductive structures than the Earth samples among the flax while germinating.

 

Title: Spores in Space: The Effects of Microgravity on Endomycorrhizae
Oral Presentation, 7th Annual SSEP National Conference, June 2017
Stockton University
Grade level: 14

Type of Experiment: Flight Experiment, Mission 11

Co-Principal Investigators: Valkyrie Falciani, Danielle Ertz
Co-Investigators: Francisca Ekekwe, Ariel Petchel, Vashti Hill, Amanda Michael
Teacher Facilitator: Tara Harmer Luke

Abstract: Long term space travel poses interesting challenges, including growing a long-term food supply. Agriculture in microgravity can be improved by studying mycorrhizae: the mutualist relationship between plants and fungi, because this relationship increases the productivity of agriculturally important plant species on Earth. In a type 3 FME Mini Lab we combine Rhizophagus intraradices, a species of arbuscular mycorrhizae with flax (Linum usitatissimum), and explore the effect of microgravity on the relationship. Any outcome provides valuable information for future space travel.

 

 

5. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – University of Pittsburgh

Strategic Needs in STEM Education and the Case for SSEP
University-level students of STEM are at a crucial stage of their learning in which they must apply theoretical concepts into practice, translating them to real-world applications, as they will soon join the workforce or enter graduate studies. The School of Pharmacy partners with health care provider organizations to support outstanding training programs in research and teaching to develop knowledge of the research process including the design, conduct and publication of results of a project. The overall goal of the School of Pharmacy’s (SOP) research programs is to advance human health through a portfolio of research that ranges from computational drug discovery to preclinical development to patient outcomes.

The UPSOP pathway to success includes a suggested curriculum for student teams and mentors, and providing opportunities for the teams to meet, exchange ideas, and provide constructive criticism to each other.

Specifically, SSEP will: provide authentic immersion in a multi-faceted research experience, with students being asked to truly be part of America’s Space Program. At least 10 teams will be designing real microgravity experiments with real world constraints imposed by the operation of a flight certified microgravity mini-laboratory, and flight operations to and from low Earth orbit; teams will be required to write real research proposals and experience a formal proposal review and selection process;  and the effort will require self-directed learning, and nurture students’ skills in critical thinking, problem solving, seamless navigation across a trans- disciplinary landscape, communication, and team work.

Partner Institutions
University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy

Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium

SSEP Mission Participation
Mission 13 to ISS

Colleges/Campuses Engaging Students in Microgravity Experiment Design: University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy

Number of Students Engaged in Experiment Design: 35 (grades 13-16)
Number of Flight Experiment Proposals: 5

Mission Patch Art and Design Competition: one competition; (grades 13-16)
Participating Institutions: University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, University of Pittsburgh School of Arts and Sciences
Competition Description and Flight Patches

SSEP Community Program Co-Directors
John Donehoo
donehoojp@upmc.edu

Ravi Patel
rmp40@pitt.edu

Cam Karnick
cck20@pitt.edu

 

Mission 13 Flight Experiment

Transcriptomic Analysis of Escherichia coli Response to Ciprofloxacin in Microgravity
Grade 16, University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy
Co-Principal Investigators: Mohamed Kashkoush, David Katz, Anu Patel
Teacher Facilitator: Christian Gauthier

Pitt Pharmacy students Anu Patel, Mohamed Kashkoush, and David Katz conducting research in the lab on antimicrobial resistance.

Proposal Summary:
Antimicrobial resistance is a growing public health issue that has a global and even a universal effect. With the concurrently increasing frequency, duration and overall ambition of space exploration, it is important to approach the treatment of infections during spaceflight with confidence and precision. A closed, high-touch environment aboard the ISS and other space vessels, combined with increased bacterial virulence and human immunosuppression during spaceflight further highlight the importance of research into antimicrobial therapies under microgravity conditions. A troubling example of this infectious risk is highlighted from a 96-day spaceflight where a Russian cosmonaut became ill with a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus infection after another cosmonaut was treated with ampicillin. Prior experiments have shown that bacteria undergo transcriptomic changes that result in accelerated growth and increased resistance when challenged with antibiotics in space. Building upon these principles, this proposal aims to determine the transcriptomic changes that occur in Escherichia coli with exposure to ciprofloxacin in microgravity. By analyzing the bacterial transcriptome, this project aims to further understand the mechanisms of microgravity-associated antimicrobial resistance. Specifically, this experiment will explore whether or not survival responses previously shown during spaceflight are antibiotic-specific or broadly attributable to other antibiotics. This will provide data towards constructing evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of infectious disease during spaceflight, as well as provide insight into mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance for drug development on Earth. In doing so, we can make space and Earth safer for all.

 

 

6. El Paso, Texas

Strategic Needs in STEM Education and the Case for SSEP
The El Paso Community College (EPCC) and the Transmountain T-STEM Early College High School (TMECHS) collaboratively work toward expanding the number of graduates in the El Paso, Texas community with Associate’s degrees in STEM-related career fields. EPCC is a multi-campus, Hispanic Serving Institution that serves 30,000 students. The Transmountain Campus provides educational programs for northeast El Paso and serves over 4,000 credit students each semester. In 2008, a partnership was established between the two entities that provides hands-on STEM research experiences that address community needs and potential solutions. The direct focus and alignment to community needs creates awareness for the benefits of producing additional STEM graduates in a predominantly Hispanic community. The SSEP experience, started with the community participating in the STS-134 flight opportunity, allows our students to collaboratively conduct experiments that enhance and extend their local STEM research experiences. By participating in the mission to the International Space Station, the student researchers are given the chance to think outside the box; connect their learning to a cutting edge and high profile scientific and educational opportunity; and make use of resources beyond the El Paso area that would otherwise be unavailable. The opportunity is truly an “out of this world” experience for the El Paso community.

This will be a life-changing experience that we hope will serve as the inspiration for many of our students to enter the STEM fields.

Partner Institutions
El Paso Community College

Texas Space Grant Consortium
El Paso Independent School Districts
University of South Florida, Department of Chemical & Biomedical Engineering

SSEP Mission Participation
Mission 1 to ISS

Colleges/Campuses Engaging Students in Microgravity Experiment Design: El Paso Community College, Transmountain Early College High School, Northwest Early College High School

Number of Students Engaged in Experiment Design: 141 (grades 10-14)
Number of Flight Experiment Proposals: 12

Mission Patch Art and Design Competition: two competitions; (grades K-5), (grades 9-14)
Participating Institutions: El Paso Community College, Transmountain Early College High School, Northwest Early College High School, L.B. Johnson Elementary School
Competition Description and Flight Patches

SSEP on STS-134

Colleges/Campuses Engaging Students in Microgravity Experiment Design: El Paso Community College Transmountain Campus, Transmountain Early College High School

Number of Students Engaged in Experiment Design: these data not recorded for the first SSEP Mission
Number of Flight Experiment Proposals: 7

SSEP Community Program Co-Directors
Dr. Gertrud Konings-Dudin
gkonings@epcc.edu

Dr. Maria Alvarez
Professor of Biology, El Paso Community College
malva279@epcc.edu

 

Mission 1 Flight Experiment

The Effect of Microgravity on the Use of Cactus Mucilage for Water Purification
College Sophomores; El Paso Community College Valle Verde Campus
Co-Principal Investigators: Naiqui Armendariz and Jesus Castor

Proposal Summary:
Cactuses are incredible organisms due to their diverse beneficial features such as: the growing of penicillin on the roots, excellent source of carbohydrates and minerals, great endurance to harsh conditions, great for human hydration, and the recently found feature of using cactus mucilage to purify water. For all these reasons, cactuses are a wonderful candidate for future space farms. In fact, cactuses are already being tested for spatial use. The main focus of this experiment is to test the ability of Opuntia ficus-indica’s mucilage to purify water. We will be testing the possible use of its mucilage to clean water contaminated with chromium, in space. This characteristic of the mucilage may have helpful benefits in the future mainly for two reasons: purification of moon water and possible recycling of the water used in space missions. This experiment will be focusing on the possible purification of the water found on the moon. Chromium can be found on the moon in small proportions, but it can be very harmful if ingested [4]; that is the reason we will be testing the removal of this mineral from water. If mucilage water-purification proves to be unaffected by microgravity, the process may be viable for the purification of the moon’s water.

 

Title: The Effect of Microgravity on the Use of Cactus Mucilage for Water Purification
Oral Presentation, 2nd Annual SSEP National Conference, July 2012
El Paso Community College Transmountain Campus (EPCC)
Grade levels of Team: College Sophomore

Type of Experiment: Flight Experiment, Mission 1 to ISS

Co-Principal Investigators: Naiqui Armendariz and Jesus Castor
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Gertrud Konings-Dudin, Assistant Professor of Biology, El Paso Community College, Transmountain Campus

Abstract: Opuntia mucilage has been shown to effectively remove chromium and other metals from contaminated water, which makes it useful as a natural flocculating agent. The flocculation process is caused by interaction of the positive metal ions with the anionic polyelectrolyte, the mucilage. Since charged particles easily agglomerate in microgravity, we expect the purification process to work in space. After removal of the mucilage, the chromium content of the remaining solution is measured with a spectrophotometer.

 

SSEP on STS-134 Flight Experiment

The Effect of Microgravity on Biofilm Formation by E. coli on Polystyrene Particles
Grade 11 and College Sophomore
El Paso Community College Transmountain Campus & Transmountain Early College High School
Co-Principal Investigators: Michelle Holguin (Grade 11), Diana Pahman (College Sophomore), and Jarisma Rodriguez (Grade 11)
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Maria E. Alvarez, Professor of Biology

Click to Zoom

Proposal Summary:
Bacterial biofilms are communities of bacteria that surround themselves with a slime-like substance, creating a potent shield that makes them resistant to a variety of environmental factors including antimicrobial agents. The objective of our project is to determine if biofilm formation, by Escherichia coli K-12 on polystyrene plastic particles, is influenced by microgravity conditions. Escherichia coli is excreted in the feces of humans and animals. Plastic materials are used in a variety of objects on earth and in space including water purification systems and wastewater treatment plant components. Because of this, it is very important to determine the conditions that influence biofilm formation. We will conduct our experiments by incubating 250 and 500 μm polystyrene particles and E. coli K-12 suspensions for ten days under microgravity and normal gravity conditions for a period of ten days at normal ambient temperature. Biofilm formation will be analyzed using a Hitachi TM100 Scanning Electron Microscope at El Paso Community College.

 

Title: The Effect of Microgravity on Biofilm Formation by E. coli on Polystyrene Particles
Oral Presentation, 1st Annual SSEP National Conference, July 2011
El Paso Community College Transmountain Campus (EPCC)
Transmountain Early College High School (TMECHS)
Grade levels of Team: College Sophomore, and Grade 11

Type of Experiment: Flight Experiment, SSEP on STS-134

Co-Principal Investigators: Michelle Holguin, Diana Pahman, and Jarisma Rodriguez
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Maria E. Alvarez, Professor of Biology

Abstract: Bacterial biofilms are communities of bacteria surrounded with a slime-like substance that creates a protective shield and makes them resistant to a variety of environmental factors. The objective of our project is to determine if biofilm formation by Escherichia coli on polystyrene plastic particles is influenced by microgravity conditions. Experiments were conducted by incubating 500-mm polystyrene beads and E. coli suspensions under microgravity and normal gravity conditions. Biofilm formation was analyzed using Scanning Electron Microscopy.

 

 

7. Toronto, Ontario, Canada – Ryerson University

Strategic Needs in STEM Education and the Case for SSEP
Ryerson University participation in SSEP Mission 8 to ISS will reach out to more than 150 students (90 second and third year science undergraduates and 60 senior high school students) to engage in microgravity experimental design and proposal writing. Leveraging the Office of Science Outreach and Enrichment (OSOE) at Ryerson University, this student dynamic seeks to have teams of 5 students, where undergraduate students (3) will mentor marginalized secondary students (2) from local inner city high schools, who would not normally get the opportunity to participate in advanced STEM-based learning.

Ryerson University prides itself in offering unique conditions for experiential science learning, and engaging in the SSEP it arguably the most engaging opportunity towards that goal. SSEP will enable the students to experience and participate in authentic scientific experimentation while developing teamwork and mentorship skills. This opportunity is a real world experience that breaks from the model of traditional teaching and creates excitement for all students.

Through the OSOE, Ryerson reaches out to some of the most underprivileged neighbourhoods in the city, and providing these students with an authentic and unique experimentation opportunity will go a long way in encouraging these students to pursue post secondary school education and potentially bringing them towards STEM fields of study.

A focus on transferable skills is also in Ryerson’s mandate. As such, this is also an excellent opportunity for our participants in the science mentorship program (RySciMatch – vide infra) to build their own leadership and mentorship skills, while reaching out to underrepresented groups. To this end, undergraduate students from chemistry, physics, biology, math and computer science, can give back to their local community and strengthen Ryerson’s reputation as a community builder.

Partner Institutions
Ryerson University

Ministry of Economic Development – Ontario
National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Magellan AerospaceSSEP National Partner

SSEP Mission Participation
Mission 8 to ISS

Colleges/Campuses Engaging Students in Microgravity Experiment Design: Ryerson University

Number of Students Engaged in Experiment Design: 162 (grades 9-14)
Number of Flight Experiment Proposals: 21

Mission Patch Art and Design Competition: one competition; (grades 10-14)
Participating Institutions: Ryerson University, St. Josephs College School, Dr. Norman Bethune Collegiate Institute, St. Marcellinus Secondary School, Pickering High School, Brampton Centennial Secondary School, Neil McNeil High School, Agincourt Collegiate Institute, Leaside High School, James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School, Danforth Collegiate & Technical Institute, St. Joseph’s Morrow Park Catholic Secondary School, William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute, David and Mary Thomson Collegiate Institute, Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy, Turner Fenton Secondary School
Competition Description and Flight Patches

SSEP Community Program Co-Directors
Nathan Battersby
nathan.battersby@ryerson.ca

Bryan Koivisto
bryan.koivisto@ryerson.ca

Emily Agard
eagard@ryerson.ca

 

Mission 8 Flight Experiment

Growth of Pleurotus ostreatus in Microgravity
Grade 11 and 2nd year Undergraduate, Ryerson University, Toronto District School Board
Co-Principal Investigators: Komalpreet Kahlon, Francis Buguis, Gemma Mancuso, Kugenthini Tharmakulasekaram, Modlin Orange
Advisors: Dr. Joseph McPhee, Murad Jabarov
Teacher Facilitators: Dr. Bryan Koivisto, Nathan Battersby

Proposal Summary:
The purpose of this proposal is to present an experiment on the growth of the fungi Pleurotus ostreatus, commonly known as the pearl oyster mushroom, in microgravity. The question we are proposing is: Will microgravity affect the growth of Pleurotus ostreatus? The Pleurotus ostreatus is an edible species of mushroom that is harvested three to four weeks after initial spawning. It is an ideal species for this experiment because it can grow in a wide range of temperatures (ranging from 10ºC to 35ºC) while achieving optimal growth at 25ºC. This saprotrophic fungi, Pleurotus ostreatus has the capacity to use recyclable material from the space shuttle such as cardboard and office paper, in addition to left-over vegetation such as rice straw, as substrate by extracting nutrients from the lignocellulosic waste. When under microgravity, the spores will be mixed with the bedding of food and water source for a duration of nine days for cultivation. Any growth thereafter will be terminated by mixing puromycin solution with the substrate and fungi. N-acetylglucosamine will be quantified to determine the amount of growth of the fungi. Pleurotus ostreatus was chosen because the simplicity of the experiment shows great potential for growth in microgravity and the success of such an experiment may offer a great solution to growing edible food while using waste materials that are readily available.

 

Title: Will Microgravity Affect the Growth of Pleurotus ostreatus?
Oral Presentation, 5th Annual SSEP National Conference, July 2015
Ryerson University
Grade levels: 11 and 2nd year Undergraduate

Type of Experiment: Flight Experiment, Mission 8

Co-Principal Investigators: Komalpreet Kahlon, Francis Buguis, Gemma Mancuso, Modlin Orange, Kugenthini Tharmakulasekaram
Collaborator: Murad Jabarov
Teacher Facilitator: Bryan Koivisto, Nathan Battersby

Abstract: This experiment aims to explore the effect of microgravity on the growth of the saprotrophic fungus Pleurotus ostreatus, more commonly known as the pearl oyster mushroom. This fungus has been subject to much research. This highly nutritious fungus is grown in many countries and is consumed as a major source of nutrients. Differences in growth will be determined by studying the mycelial content in both samples. This research could be a step towards the production of food in space.

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC, which are working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.