June 23rd, 2015

Honorable Mentions Spotlight 1

The twelve teams selected as Honorable Mentions contribute greatly to the Genes in Space Community. We have asked the Honorable Mention Awardees a few questions about their experience. Here is what three of these teams have to say.


Kushal Kadakia
School: Clear Lake High School, TX
Mentor: Deborah Borrmann
Age: 17

I proposed to investigate how spaceflight affects gene expression in the human microbiome, by analyzing tissue samples before, during, and after a mission and then comparing the gene profiles to the Human Microbiome Project’s database to assess changes. 

The microbiome refers to the environment within the human body, and all of the organisms (bacteria and the like) which inhabit it. Understanding how spaceflight affects the microbiome is of crucial importance, as the microbiome is essential to maintaining the immune system and internal homeostasis. This could have vast implications upon human health in long-term space missions. 

GiS expanded my view of STEM, showing me that innovations in science aren't limited to our planet. Advancing humanity's work in space will be an interdisciplinary effort, and it was fascinating to examine spaceflight from a biological perspective. I look forward to continuing to work at the intersection of science and technology


William Gao, Julia Hansen, Michael Gao, and Yinyu Ji 

School: Boston Latin School, MA
Mentors: Aimee Messemer and Scott Balicki

Age: 16

Our proposal was to "strengthen" bacteria involved in antibiotic production. By observing that several pathogenic bacteria increased virulence aboard the ISS, we came up with the idea to increase the efficacy of beneficial bacteria like Streptomyces bacteria, commonly used in current antibiotics. As antibiotics greatly reduce humans' susceptibility to prolonged and graver disease, we found this idea to be very relevant and significant.

If we are really able to create new strains of improved antibiotic-producing bacteria aboard the ISS, the field of medicine will be revolutionized. Since the dawn of antibiotics a century ago, we have been struggling with the issue of antibiotic resistance and our team believes that this research has the potential to mitigate this problem. Beyond the medical field, perhaps we might also find mutations in the bacterial DNA that could benefit other areas of science.

Participating in Genes in Space was a great way to improve skills in teamwork and in developing our own ideas.We had the opportunity to experience science from a different angle than what we learn in school, and were able to do so as a group.  We learned how to manage time, divide tasks, and adapt as our research yielded new information.

We were already interested in pursuing jobs in STEM fields, which is why we entered this contest. This experience has certainly increased our desire to continue studying, and our determination to succeed in our education and eventual careers.


School: Kaimuki Middle School, HI
Mentor: Alia Thompson
Age: 12

PCR has never been performed in space before. I proposed a plan to test whether and how well PCR works in space, where there is microgravity and cosmic radiation. This is important because before we start to use PCR in space to help answer unknown questions, we need to verify that this method is reliable and accurate.

The research I proposed can change science because if PCR works in space, there is a new world to be discovered with this scientific method. If PCR works, we could research DNA on meteorites in space, which might give us clue to how life started. Being able to perform PCR in space will help us answer numerous unknown questions. The research that I proposed will verify whether we can proceed in this direction, bringing science to a whole new level.

Participating in Genes in Space has greatly changed my interest towards STEM. By participating, I was able to learn about another area of science and technology that I did not know about. Now I am more curious about DNA and genetics and what more there is to this topic.

If you would like to get in touch with any of these students, please email the GiS Team at genesinspace@minipcr.com.