On April 11, NASA Astronaut and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold initiated the first of two student experiments that won the 2017 Genes in Space competition. The high school students who designed the winning projects are Elizabeth Reizis from New York and Sophia Chen from Washington. The experiments flew on SpaceX CRS-14 as part of the Genes in Space-5 payload.
The Genes in Space program, founded by Boeing and miniPCR and supported by CASIS, holds an annual student research competition in which students in grades 7 through 12 propose DNA experiments that use the unique environment of the ISS to solve real-world problems. The winning proposals are developed into flight projects and launched to the ISS.
Elizabeth Reizis’ experiment tests a method to study how microgravity affects the immune system, which has implications for astronauts’ ability to fight disease. Sophia Chen’s experiment tests a technique for measuring genetic changes linked to radiation exposure, which may affect astronauts’ risk of cancer. Both experiments also have applications for medical science on Earth.
Reizis and Chen traveled to Florida to attend the launch on April 2, but they didn’t get to watch it from the VIP location as planned. With their bus stuck in a four-hour traffic jam, they watched the launch from the highway!