June 18th, 2019

GiS Spotlight: Honorable Mention Michael Chan

Each year, Genes in Space awards 10 Honorable Mentions to students whose proposals showed remarkable creativity and scientific rigor. 2019 Honorable Mention recipient Michael Chan (14) attends Stuyvesant High School in New York City and worked closely with his mentor, teacher Jessica Quenzer, to develop his idea. Here, he shares a deeper look at his winning proposal and offers advice to future contestants.

2019 Honorable Mention Michael Chan

Briefly explain your experiment: I proposed to test whether microgravity-induced muscular atrophy in astronauts is caused by the disruption of the function of a calcium channel on the sarcoplasmic reticulum, causing leakage of calcium from this major source of calcium in skeletal muscles.

Why did you choose to participate in Genes in Space? I have been interested in space travel since my toddler years. My favorite pastime was watching Nova episodes with my brother, especially episodes related to NASA. Ms. Quenzer, who taught my Honors Bio-research class, informed the class about the Genes in Space competition and encouraged all of us to participate. She helped me revise my proposal multiple times. I do not think I would have won the award without her. 

How did you choose your topic? When I started researching for my topic, we just finished the muscle unit in my Honors Bio-research class. After watching the educational videos on the Genes in Space competition website, I naturally gravitated toward the muscle atrophy problem plaguing the astronauts.   

What did you gain by participating in Genes in Space? I acquired a vast amount of knowledge about muscle contractile control, especially the role of calcium channel in controlling the proper storage amount of calcium. I also discovered that PCR can be useful in many different ways to facilitate science research. Most importantly, I learned how to formulate a hypothesis, conduct scientific research, and write a research proposal.

Do you have any advice for future Genes in Space contestants? Read about current developments in space travel and pursue a topic that interests you. And have fun in the process.