July 16th, 2020

GiS Spotlight: Honorable Mentions Lucy Brock & Ellie Yates

Genes in Space awards Honorable Mentions to ten outstanding proposals remarkable for their creativity and scientific rigor. Today, we're celebrating 2020 Honorable Mention recipients Lucy Brock (16) and Ellie Yates (17) who are homeschooled in the Austin, Texas area. Here, Lucy and Ellie share how teamwork made their space biology dream work.

2020 Lucy Brock Ellie Yates Lucy Brock (left) and Ellie Yates

What was the focus of your experiment? Our experiment used DNA barcoding technology to track the growth and fitness of tissue repair cells (keratinocytes and fibroblasts), under microgravity conditions.

Why did you choose to participate in Genes in Space? We are both very active on our local science team and were looking for more ways to learn about and engage with actual scientific research. When we heard about the Genes in Space contest from a teacher, it sounded like the perfect project for us to do! The contest was a great combination of both our interests, as Ellie has always been very interested in human biology, and Lucy is very excited about all things space related.

How did you choose your topic? After learning about the effects of long-term space flight on the human body, we wanted to further explore how tissue repair cells adapt to space conditions. While large injuries are rare, minor tissue repair is an ongoing process. Knowing how the fitness of those repair cells is affected by microgravity could lead to better understanding of long term effects. As future missions involve spending more and more time in space, this understanding will be crucial. 

What did you gain by participating in Genes in Space? We learned so much throughout all our research for this project! Working together to write a scientific proposal, while also branching out of our comfort zones, was challenging and very valuable. Genes in Space turned out to be much more interdisciplinary than it sounded at first. You have to know the scientific content, but more importantly, you have to be able to think critically to design an experiment and be able to communicate how the experiment is relevant.

Do you have any advice for future Genes in Space contestants? Start early and plan to spend lots of time researching, learning, and writing. The more you learn, the better you will be able to articulate and present your proposal. And most importantly, have fun with it!