July 1st, 2020

GiS Spotlight: Honorable Mention Alice Muravin

Genes in Space awards Honorable Mentions to ten outstanding proposals remarkable in their creativity and scientific rigor. Today, we're celebrating 2020 Honorable Mention recipient Alice Muravin (18) from Hillcrest Homeschool Academy in Brooklyn, New York, who developed her proposal with input from her sponsor, Ines Muravin. Here, Alice shares what she's learned as a three-time award-winning Genes in Space veteran.

What was the focus of your experiment? My experiment examined how microgravity and space radiation affect skeletomuscular composition via a specific type of gene regulation molecule (micro RNA). Although skeletal muscle composition changes on Earth depending on the kind of exercise we do, microgravity does not provide the necessary challenge to make muscles work properly. This can result in a muscular construction that is more susceptible to atrophy, and can potentially lead to mobility problems and bone injury.

Why did you choose to participate in Genes in Space? It’s always exciting for me to think about what lies beyond the Earth and how the exploration of it could affect the astronaut explorers that will be our pioneers for this new frontier. I love to challenge myself in exploring what this future of space exploration will be like.

How did you choose your topic? I know from personal experience how hard it is to build up muscle once atrophy occurs. I can only imagine how much harder it is to do that in space, considering that there is no gravity to help. After reviewing the ever-present concern of skeletomuscular atrophy in astronauts and learning how they are currently trying to fight it, I began to wonder about the actual biological mechanism that leads to this atrophy. 

What did you gain by participating in Genes in Space?  I always liked the phrase of Thomas Edison, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”. Even though participating in Genes in Space requires a lot of work — researching materials, analyzing, brainstorming, and composing a concise proposal — the entire experience was exciting, intellectually stimulating, and rewarding for me.

Do you have any advice for future Genes in Space contestants? You never know what you can accomplish unless you try.