Anatomy of a Space Experiment

How to Send Your Experiment into Space: Anatomy of a Space Experiment

Scientists studying the effects of gravity face the difficulty of designing experiments that isolate the effects of gravity. Ideally, this means conducting an experiment in the absence of gravity – no easy task while on Earth. Certainly, the best place to run a long-term gravity experiment is space or while orbiting the Earth in microgravity conditions; however, getting your experiment into space might be as hard as neutralizing gravity on Earth. This is the dilemma Dr. Sarah Wyatt faced in the search for the genes controlling the signaling pathways of plants responding to changes in gravity.

When NASA Research sent out a call for research proposals for the International Space Station (ISS), Wyatt recognized an opportunity for the Wyatt Lab to take their gravitropism research to the next level. Perhaps you have an experiment you want to run aboard the ISS? Or maybe you just want to know what it takes to get on the ISS research roster. The following briefly describes some of the major milestones in designing and deploying an experiment in space.


Figure 1: NASA BRIC-20 Major Project Milestones

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My Plant Story – Marilyn Hayden

My (not so) Secret Garden
Marilyn Hayden

marilyn-haydenI was 5 years old when my family moved to Athens. Before we had lived in Galloway, Ohio, so I did not get to see my grandparents often. Once we moved, I spent almost every weekend in the summer with my great grandmother Marilyn in her garden. My grandmother loves a full garden of flowers. She especially loves sunflowers; she even makes snacks with their seeds. I loved going to her house on the weekends. We spent hours baking and gardening. Because she grew up in the 1930’s, she thought that every little girl should learn proper housework and baking.

My most favorite memory was when she gave me a neon green spade, hand-rake and matching watering can to use. That was the beginning of summer after 5th grade. With my new tools in hand, I really wanted to grow my own little patch of sunflowers to surprise my great grandmother. I tried to be sneaky and planted a handful of sunflower seeds closer to the woods. While I took excellent care of the plants on the weekends, no flowers sprouted. I was so disappointed and felt badly for stealing some seeds that did not flower.

When I went to apologize and tell my great-grandmother what had happened, she told me that she knew I had been trying to grow a secret patch of sunflowers. She then told me that if I wanted my plants to grow I had to take care of them more than just on the weekends. She reminded me that plants are living things just like people, who need love and care around the clock. She was so excited that I was into gardening she started an aloe plant off her bigger aloe plant for me to take home and care for on my own.

Currently, I still have a part of that aloe plant growing in my apartment and I frequently use it for sunburn. My mother and I mostly plant the garden now since my great grandmother is 87 years old and my great-grandfather, Bernie, is 90 years old. While the garden has shrunk in size, it is still packed full of color and sunflowers, especially around the edges towards the woods.

Meet Marilyn Hayden, Graduate Student Researcher

marilyn-hayden

M.S. Molecular and Cellular Biology, (Anticipated May 2016) B.S. Biology, Ohio University  2013

Marilyn is currently a Masters Student in the  Molecular and Cellular Biology program. Her current research involves assembly and analysis of RNAseq data from  in the BRIC-20 experiment and development of a microgravity gene network.  From her analysis of the RNAseq data,  she will identify differentially expressed mRNA transcripts specific to germination and early development of Arabidopsis seedlings in space. The RNAseq data will also provide an additional expression profile for the microgravity gene network. Marilyn is also working to identify the mutation responsible for the Arabidopsis mutant gps6.  A typical day in the lab for Marilyn includes compiling publically available spaceflight expression data, creating pipelines for next generation sequencing data,  phenotype analysis of gps6 and RNA extractions. When she is not in the lab, Marilyn enjoys hiking around Athens with her dog and making jewelry for her friends.