The SSEP Step 2 Review Board for Mission 4 to ISS

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), and Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, are proud to introduce the National Step 2 Review Board for SSEP Mission 4 to the International Space Station (ISS). On May 21, 2013, the Board met at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, in Washington, DC, to review 33 finalist proposals for student flight experiments submitted from across the network of 11 communities participating in SSEP Mission 4 to ISS. Listed below are the 14 Board Members—scientists, engineers, and science educators from academia, federal agencies, commercial entities, and national science education non-profits.

For Mission 4 to ISS, a total of 3,900 grade 5-12 students in the 11 participating communities were given the opportunity to design real experiments to fly aboard the ISS. At the conclusion of the 9-week experiment design phase, a total of 744 proposals were submitted by student teams, reflecting 3,080 students formally engaged in experiment design. 353 proposals were forwarded for review by SSEP Step 1 Review Boards in the communities. Each of these local Boards selected 3 finalist proposals for submission to the SSEP National Step 2 Review Board.

For Step 2 review, the Board Members were divided into four teams, each comprised of both researchers and science educators, and each team responsible for review of proposals from 2 to 3 SSEP communities. Board Members selected 11 flight experiments. The Board Members spent a great deal of time providing thoughtful comments for all 33 proposals, which were forwarded to the proposing student teams by NCESSE. The review went well beyond what is typical of reviews for professional research proposals given there was a deep recognition that the process, and the comments back, were vitally important teachable moments for the student researchers that worked so hard on their proposals. Through SSEP, we want to immerse students in real science. The review process is very much a part of real science, and that process therefore needs to be transparent, and a learning experience.

NCESSE reviewed all comments from the Step 2 Review Board to assess if there were any outstanding questions that needed to be addressed by the selected student flight teams, and on June 11, 2013, NCESSE formally announced the selected flight experiments.

You are invited to explore the selected flight experiments and honorable mention finalist experiments for Mission 4 to ISS.

A Note to All Mission 4 Student Research Teams
To the thousands of students that participated in SSEP Mission 4 to ISS, regardless of whether your proposal was selected for flight, and regardless of whether it formally went before a Review Board, it is important to recognize the endeavor in which you’ve been engaged – real science. This is how real research proceeds from opportunity, to defining a proposed research program, to submission of a proposal, to formal proposal review and selection. In the professional world, comments back from the Review Board allow a team to rethink and refine their proposed research, so they can submit a better proposal for the next opportunity. We have indeed had SSEP student teams that did not get selected for spaceflight the first time, but did get selected with a refined proposal as part of their community’s next flight opportunity.

Reflect on the overall experience, and recognize that you and your team owned this process – you came up with a microgravity experiment of interest to you, and designed it to fly in a research mini-lab that has a very real set of constraints on its operation. So get excited about what you’ve achieved, and get excited about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We challenge you to seek out new opportunities in STEM where you can be curious and take ownership … in the journey.

Finally, recognize that YOUR COMMUNITY now has an experiment destined for the International Space Station, that you are part of this historic adventure, and now you and your community can rally around your flight experiment and root for its success.


The SSEP National Step 2 Review Board for Mission 4 to ISS—

1. Dr. Matthew BobrowskyDr. Matt Bobrowsky
Adjunct Space Science Researcher, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education
Astronomy Chair, University of Maryland University College (UMUC)
Adjunct Professor, UMUC

Dr. Matt Bobrowsky is a nationally recognized science educator, receiving multiple teaching awards. He teaches various scientific subjects, carries out scientific research, and engages in numerous public speaking events. Recent experience includes serving as Director of the Physics Demonstration Facility at UMCP, a collection of 1,600 science demonstrations. Matt has also worked in the Office of Public Outreach at the (Hubble) Space Telescope Science Institute, and prior to that, at the Challenger Center for Space Science Education – places where he developed science curriculum materials and presented countless workshops to teachers and the public. His educational presentations address topics such as the process of science, misconceptions in science, effective science teaching, and science vs. pseudoscience. His public presentations on astronomy are entertaining and educational. As an astrophysicist, Matt’s research includes astronomical observations with many telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope. His specialty is the study of planetary nebulae – clouds of gas expanding outward from aging stars.

2. Dr. Paul ByrneDr. Paul Byrne
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington
Dr. Paul Byrne is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, working on NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury. His areas of interest include all aspects of the development of planetary surfaces, including volcanism, tectonism, and impact cratering. He has carried out fieldwork on volcanoes in France, Italy, and Spain and throughout the Indian Ocean, has expertise in remote sensing, image analysis, geographic information systems (GIS), laboratory modeling, and field skills, and has published on volcanic and tectonic systems on Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury. Byrne also has a strong interest in space mission design, participating in the 2007 ESA mission design Summer School in Alpbach, Austria, and the 2012 NASA JPL Planetary Science Summer School, helping to design missions to Europa and Venus, respectively.

3. Dr. Sonya DumanisDr. Sonya Dumanis
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Georgetown University
Sonya Dumanis recently completed a doctorate in Neuroscience from Georgetown University where she characterized the role of APOE, an Alzheimer’s Disease risk factor gene, at the synapse. While at Georgetown, Dr. Dumanis helped found a Student Research Grants initiative modeled after NIH, which allowed students to write, review, and receive grant awards. She was recently awarded a post-doctoral Humboldt fellowship, which will allow her to examine SORLA, a receptor implicated in trans-golgi network sorting. She is interested in pursuing a career that merges both basic science research with science education.

4. Dr. Jeff Goldstein
Program Director, Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP)
Center Director, Astrophysicist, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE)
Dr. Jeff Goldstein is the creator of SSEP, and its Program Director. He is also the Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), and the Institute Director for the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education. Jeff is a nationally recognized science educator, and planetary scientist, who has dedicated his career to the public understanding of science and the joys of learning. He oversaw the creation of the Center’s national science education initiatives, including the Voyage National Program. He led the inter-organizational team that permanently installed the Voyage model Solar System on the National Mall in Washington, DC. He is a blogger at the Huffington Post, and writes Blog on the Universe. His planetary science research includes the development of techniques for measuring global winds on other planets using large telescopes on Earth. His research has produced the first direct measurement of the global winds above the clouds on Venus, and the first measurement of the global winds on Mars.

5. Stacy HamelStacy Hamel
Flight Operations Manager, Student Spaceflight Experiments Program
Education Program Manager, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE)
Stacy Hamel is the Flight Operations Manager for the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. Her previous experience at NCESSE includes co-directing the Voyage National Program – a national public education and outreach program that is installing replicas of the Voyage Scale Model Solar System located on the National Mall in Washington, DC, in communities worldwide. Stacy also co-directed many of the Center’s other Educational Programs including Journey through the Universe – a national initiative that engages entire communities—students, teachers, families, and the public—using education programs in the Earth and space sciences and space exploration that inspire and educate. Over 200,000 grade preK-12 students have participated in Journey through the Universe.

6. Michael Hulslander
Manager of Onsite Learning
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Michael is responsible for science education at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. He also manages the How Things Fly gallery, Moving Beyond Earth gallery, the Public Observatory Project and the Explainers Program. How Things Fly teaches visitors about the science of flight. Moving Beyond Earth is an immersive exhibition placing visitors “in orbit” during the shuttle and space-station era. At the Public Observatory visitors explore craters on the Moon, spots on the Sun, the phases of Venus, and other wonders of the universe using a 16-inch telescope. The Explainers Program gives high school and college students the chance to work at the National Air and Space Museum. Michael has worked in museums and zoos for more than 25 years, researching, writing, presenting and evaluating science programs for school groups, families and the general public.

7. Dr. Christian KlimczakDr. Christian Klimczak
MESSENGER Postdoctoral Fellow, Carnegie Institution of Washington
Dr. Christian Klimczak is a MESSENGER postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution of Washington currently focussing on geological processes on the planet Mercury. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Nevada, Reno with emphasis on rock fracturing processes throughout a variety of tectonophysical settings on the rocky planets. His current research ties together various aspects of the volcanic and tectonic evolution of Mercury and the Moon. He is also interested in characterizing the scaling-behavior and geometric properties of several types of rock fractures using field-based methods and photogeologic interpretations.

8. Dr. Tim LivengoodDr. Tim Livengood
Adjunct Space Science Researcher, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education
Research Scientist, University of Maryland Department of Astronomy
Dr. Tim Livengood is a senior advisor to SSEP and adjunct research scientist with the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education. He is a research scientist with the University of Maryland Department of Astronomy and works at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Tim has been a presenter and team leader for the Center’s public and school programs and has visited hundreds of classrooms. His current research uses a neutron-detecting instrument on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to measure deposits of water on the Moon, and uses infrared spectroscopy from telescopes on Earth to measure composition, temperature, and wind velocity in the atmospheres of other planets.

9. Dr. David LoebDr. David Loeb
Associate Professor, Oncology and Pediatrics
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Dr. David Loeb has been a pediatric oncologist since 2000. His clinical interests are diverse – he is a member of the bone marrow transplant team, and Director of the Musculoskeletal Tumor Program. In addition to clinical work, he also runs a research laboratory with several active areas of research. A core research program investigates the role of a transcription factor known as WT1 in the biology of sarcomas – tumors of connective tissue. The leading hypothesis is that WT1 regulates the expression of a broad array of pro-angiogenesis genes, and WT1 therefore promotes tumor growth through increasing the blood supply feeding cancer cells. The lab is currently designing a fluorescence-based high throughput screen for small molecule WT1 inhibitors that might be of use in treating WT1-expressing solid tumors. Another important area of research is the identification and targeting of Ewing sarcoma stem cells, with research currently focusing on a) the role of the RNA helicase DDX3 in Ewing sarcoma biology, and b) the role of the Wnt signaling pathway in regulating the growth of Ewing sarcoma and osteosarcoma.

10. Dr. Mamta NagarajaDr. Mamta Patel Nagaraja
Adjunct Professor, Catholic University of America
Dr. Mamta Patel Nagaraja manages the Agency-wide Women@NASA program, trains astronauts who fly to the International Space Station (ISS) and flew aboard the U.S. Space Shuttle, and works in NASA’s Mission Control Center as a certified flight controller for the ISS communications system. Dr. Nagaraja is an adjunct professor at Catholic University of America teaching courses in aerospace engineering. Her research interests include the effects of microgravity on the human skeletal system, specifically pinpointing molecular changes in bone cells. Dr. Nagaraja has completed an around-the-world trip, performing outreach in developing countries and hiking to the base camp of Mt. Everest. Dr. Nagaraja holds a BS in aerospace engineering from Texas A&M University, a MS in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Doctor of Philosophy in biomedical engineering from Georgia Tech and Emory University. She is on Twitter @beyondthecurls and blogs for the Huffington Post on science and engineering.

11. Dr. Sanda F. Rajaonson
Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium and University of Antananarivo, Madagascar
Dr. Sanda Rajaonson received his Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium and the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar through a joint program between the two institutions. His doctoral thesis focused on the inhibition of virulence gene expression in Rhodococcus fascians and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, as a culmination of years of research on the virulence of pathogenic bacteria. During his career, he has developed his interest in finding alternatives to battle the problem of multi-drug resistance in pathogenic bacteria. His next step is to continue his research in the areas of microbial genetics, host-microbe interaction and cell-to-cell communication in bacteria in order to improve his understanding of the molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis.

12. Dr. Alex Theos
Assistant Professor, Georgetown University
Alex Theos is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Human Science in the School of Nursing And Health Studies at Georgetown University. His research interests include the biogenesis of specialized organelles, focusing on the intracellular membrane trafficking pathways. Currently, his research lab is working to understanding the cell biology of the GPNMB protein, which is associated with diverse pathologies including melanoma and pigmentary glaucoma.

13. Dr. Harri Vanhala
Adjunct Space Science Researcher, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education
Senior Scientist, Global Science and Technology, Inc. 

Originally from Finland, Harri received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Oulu. Harri has worked in various research and education organizations in the Unites States for 20 years. He is a Senior Scientist at Global Science and Technology, where he works with NASA’s Space Technology and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorates to help select new space technology projects for development and experiments for flight to the International Space Station. His science research focuses on the use of computer simulations to investigate the origin of the Solar System and the formation of stars and planetary systems across the Universe. His science education activities have included hundreds of visits to grade K-12 classrooms, conducting teacher training workshops, teaching college courses, and presentations to families and the public—he is one of the presenters for the Center’s Family Science Night program at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

14. Dr. Shoshana WeiderDr. Shoshana Weider
Planetary Geologist, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism
Carnegie Institution of Washington

Shoshana Weider is a planetary geologist currently working at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution of Washington as a MESSENGER Postdoctoral Fellow. Following her undergraduate Earth Sciences degree at Oxford University, she completed her Ph.D. in Lunar Geology at Birkbeck College/UCL and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. She specialises in geochemical remote sensing techniques from planetary missions to terrestrial planets, mainly the Moon and Mercury. Shoshana also is a junior editor for Form & Content Media Ltd, where she helps run, a R&D news website, and edits articles for SPIE Newsroom.

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.