July 10th, 2018

GiS Spotlight: 2018 Finalists Joseph Garza, Krishan Ubongen, and Addison Correll

Joseph Garza, Krishan Ubongen, and Addison Correll are rising seniors at Design and Technology Academy at Roosevelt High School in San Antonio, Texas and 2018 Genes in Space Finalists. Addison and Joseph were part of a team that won Honorable Mention in the 2017 Genes in Space contest and they decided to participate again with a completely new idea. Currently the team is busy preparing for the International Space Station Research and Development contest with support from their mentor John Hatch. Here they share a bit about their proposal and their experience as Finalists. 

Garza, Ubongen, Correll

What inspired you to apply to Genes in Space?
Our school is heavily geared towards science, whether it be biology, chemistry, or physics. The Design and Technology Academy, the magnet school we attend, has several amazing science instructors such as Mrs. Anna Pape and Mrs. Ann Huffaker. Over the years, these teachers have instilled in us a passion for research and development, and we have participated in several competitions to express our love for science, such as Science Olympiad and Science Bowl. When these instructors introduced us to the Genes in Space competition, we seized this opportunity in an attempt to solve a real-world challenge in space exploration.

 How did you first become interested in science and space?
Our interest in science originated from our individual childhood passions, whether it was constellations, dinosaurs, or even bacteria. These “phases” are said to wane as children grow older, but ours never truly did. Instead, school has only expanded our knowledge, and in turn intensified our fascination, for science. The Genes in Space competition directed our attention to the issues dominating space travel and, in asking us to solve these problems, increased our interest in the rather unexplored field. Instead of simply learning facts about outer space, we are actually engaging in the space community by devising novel solutions to relevant, important issues in space exploration.

 Tell us a little bit about your topic. How and why did you choose your topic?
When considering the different problems that we could tackle, we knew we wanted to address a critical obstacle to successful space travel that would still be unique. Also, ensuring the safety and survival of astronauts was one of our top priorities in our proposed experiment. Therefore, investigating dangerous bacteria in microgravity and potentially rendering it useless checked all of those boxes. We could explore a major issue that would likely be prevalent during long-term missions, come up with a potential, promising solution, and grab the attention of those we presented to. With a little more research and information, we knew the proposal we created would be promising.

Garza, Ubongen, Correll

Tell us a little bit about what you have been working on since the Genes in Space Finalist announcement. What has it been like to work with your mentor?
Our team has been diligently working on converting our initial proposal into a presentation that can capture our audience’s attention and motivate them to listen. We are simplifying our presentation as much as possible to make it easily understandable without it being overwhelming. In addition, we have been sifting through numerous sources of information to further support our experiment. Our mentor, John Hatch, has been a huge help in these efforts. Initially, we were anxious about meeting him for the first time, but John’s calm and collected demeanor quickly eased our minds and reassured us that our project would be engaging rather than burdensome. John has provided us with great advice on how to approach our presentation and a wealth of knowledge regarding our topic.

What did you gain by participating in Genes in Space?
By participating in Genes in Space, we have acquired an intense curiosity and the drive to advance scientific research. We have obtained a newfound intellectual interest and inquisitive excitement for space science as well as a desire to ensure the future survival of astronauts in long duration missions. Also, the competition has allowed us to develop the skills necessary for successfully approaching complex and interconnected problems.

Do you have any advice for future Genes in Space contestants?
Be persistent and curious! It is an inquiring mind and a continuing effort that enables us to explore and innovate. These are the most important ingredients for a successful proposal, along with a real passion for science, because only then are you willing to invest your time, energy, and effort into your work.

Garza, Ubongen, Correll