June 17th, 2020

GiS Spotlight: Junior Scientist awardees Lucy, Jessica, Shelby & Jonathan

The Genes in Space Junior Scientist Award recognizes the top 5 submissions from middle school teams. Today, we're featuring 2020 Junior Scientist Award winners Lucy Hamilton (13), Jessica Youngblood (13), Shelby Blackwood (14), and Jonathan Clark (13). Lucy, Jessica, Shelby, and Jonathan are students at Spring Branch Academic Institute in Houston, TX. Here, the team shares what they learned as they prepared their proposal on space and cell division.

What was the focus of your experiment? We proposed to test the effect of microgravity on kinetochores, specifically the TUBA1A gene, to better understand how space alters chromosome separation. Chromosome separation is part of the cell replication cycle. Cell replication is required so our bodies can grow and replace dead cells.

Why did you choose to participate in the Genes in Space competition? Our teacher informed us about Genes in Space and encouraged us to submit an application. Since we had recently participated in our school science fair, we thought Genes in Space sounded like another fun research option.

How did you choose your topic? We learned a lot about cell division in class, so we had some background information about our topic. We were curious how microgravity would affect the separation of chromosomes — would it be faster, slower, stop, or stay the same as on Earth? If chromosome separation is altered in space, it could result in problems for the human body due to a massive change in the cell replication process.

What did you gain by participating in Genes in Space? We gained knowledge about the various genes in our body. We all gained respect for researchers who study particular genes.

Do you have any advice for future Genes in Space contestants? Our advice is to never be afraid to get started on your application. Do the research, create a proposal, and turn it in!