Director of Educational Initiatives and Engagement
1770 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
genesinspace@miniPCR.com or emily@miniPCR.com
The Genes in Space program is a science competition that challenges students in grades 7 through 12 to design DNA experiments for the International Space Station. The goal is to inspire interest in STEM by challenging students to pioneer DNA research that addresses real-life challenges of space exploration. The contests’ first winner, 17-year-old Anna-Sophia Boguraev, designed the first DNA amplification experiment ever conducted in space, leading to a peer-reviewed publication in Nature Microgravity. Genes in Space was co-founded by miniPCR and Boeing in 2015 and is currently sponsored by Math for America, CASIS, New England Biolabs, and FedEx.
Genes in Space Educational Initiatives
Genes in Space Contest:
- In 2015-2018, the competition engaged 2,500 student participants in the USA and 225 students in the United Arab Emirates.
- Students engage in self-directed learning and develop science research and writing skills as they write proposals for DNA research in space.
- Submissions are judged by a panel of scientists and thought leaders on the creative and scientific merit of the proposal.
- 25 schools receive awards each year including a miniPCR DNA Discovery System.
Genes in Space U.S. Finals:
- Finalists work with MIT and Harvard mentors to develop 10-minute presentations of proposals.
- Finalists receive travel awards to attend the ISS and Development Conference.
- Finalists present proposals to a panel of expert judges at the ISS R&D Conference.
- One winner is chosen based on the presentations.
Space Biology Camp:
- Genes in Space winners work with mentors and scientists and engineers at miniPCR and Boeing to develop DNA analysis experiments feasible on the International Space Station.
- Winners design, validate, and help prepare their experiments to fly to space.
- Winners receive funding to travel to Kennedy Space Center to watch their experiments launch.
- Winners are involved in analyzing and interpreting results of their space-based experiments.
- Winners communicate about their experiments to various audiences leading up to the launch of their experiments and work with mentors to publish their results.
- Three of the five students who have won so far have had their experiments conducted in space, and the first winner’s experiment has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
miniPCR Lab in a Box Program:
- US middle and high school teachers can request a free 2-week loan of miniPCR biotechnology equipment to teach models of space-relevant DNA science in the classroom.
- Includes all consumables, equipment, and curricula to conduct a hands-on, Genes in Space-themed lesson for up to 64 students.
- Live training and support available for teachers and students during loan period.
Genes in Space Research
Genes in Space-1
- Experiment designed by high school student Anna-Sophia Boguraev on the effect of cosmic radiation and microgravity on the immune system.
- Launch and space operations in April 2016.
- Demonstrated the operability and performance of the miniPCR thermocycler in space.
- Demonstrated that bisulfate conversion followed by PCR can detect changes in DNA methylation.
- More details: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1913.html
Genes in Space-2
- Experiment designed by high school student Julian Rubinfien on measuring telomere length as a correlate of accelerated aging in space.
- Launch and space operations in April and May 2017.
- Demonstrated that telomere-like DNA can be amplified using PCR in space.
- Demonstrated the performance of colorimetric loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) as a rapid DNA diagnostic assay in microgravity.
- More details: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/2437.html
Genes in Space-3
- Principal Investigator: Sarah Wallace, PhD (NASA Johnson Space Center).
- Ongoing since September 2016.
- Goal is to provide the capacity to perform all steps needed for DNA sequencing, a complex molecular biology technique, entirely in space.
- Requires joint operation of miniPCR and MinION DNA sequencer.
Genes in Space-4
- Experiment designed by high school student Alia Al Mansoori (United Arab Emirates) on changes in expression of genes that may protect astronauts from unwanted cell death.
- Launch and space operations in August 2017.
- Seeks to demonstrate the use of reverse transcription (RT) PCR in microgravity.
- More details: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/2524.html