May 25th, 2021

Meet the 2021 Mentors!

Any Genes in Space insider knows our mentors are the magic ingredient in our special sauce. Each year, five dedicated scientists take time out of their own busy schedules to help our Finalists turn their ideas into launch-worthy experiments. Meet our five fantastic 2021 mentors below.

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Stu Adamson

3rd-year Ph.D. student, Harvard University

What I study: I’m interested in how minor rearrangements of chemicals can often be the difference between life and death. Even slight imbalances can cause systemic disease. Currently, I study the cellular mechanisms whereby trimethylamine, a common dietary molecule, can cause cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and kidney failure.

Why I'm a mentor: I’ve long thought about how the most creative ideas can be molded into a scientific approach that will advance our understanding of the universe. Genes in Space allows anyone to turn an idea into a reality, and, as a mentor, I’m thrilled to be a part of that. Science is at its best when the only limit is our collective imagination and creativity!

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Ana Karla Cepeda Diaz

2nd-year Ph.D. student, Harvard University

What I study: My research is about the unexpected cell division strategies of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria. I am interested in neglected tropical diseases both because of their public health importance and because the organisms which cause them have fascinating cell biology.

Why I'm a mentor: I love being a mentor for Genes in Space because it brings together a fantastic group of people with diverse life experiences and scientific interests who are eager to share their ideas and learn from each other. I am excited to meet this year's finalists and bring science to new horizons together!

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Bess Miller

Bess Miller

5th-year Ph.D. student, Harvard University

What I study: I study developmental and regenerative biology. My main interest is in understanding the mechanisms underlying organ positioning and morphogenesis. Currently, my research focuses on the modulation of liver development and function by the autonomic nervous system.

Why I'm a mentor: I’m very excited to be returning for my third year as a Genes in Space mentor. This program offers a fantastic opportunity for young investigators to pursue a line of inquiry that they find fascinating. As a mentor, it’s a privilege to help students refine their ideas and see their scientific confidence and acumen grow over the course of the competition.

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Kayleigh Ingersoll Omdahl

3rd-year Ph.D. student, Harvard University

What I study: I am a 3rd year PhD candidate interested in improving treatment for patients. Right now I'm studying graft versus host disease which arises when donor cells from a bone marrow transplant attack the recipient's body.

Why I'm a mentor: I am a NASA nerd at heart. In high school, I was an Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholar, and that experience helped me make connections, get involved in research programs and decide which college to attend. As a first-year mentor, I hope to provide some of those experiences for Genes in Space students, especially those that may not have access to them otherwise.

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Aleks Radakovic

Aleks Radakovic

3rd-year Ph.D. student, Harvard University

What I study: I am interested in how amazing biological complexity can evolve from simple chemical processes. Specifically, I am curious about the processes that drove the coevolution of nucleic acids and proteins to establish the Central Dogma. The intellectual freedom to pursue exciting questions and ideas regardless of the exact field is what I love about science!

Why I'm a mentor: Last year, when I met my mentee – and the other Finalists – my mind was blown! The crisp energy, the fresh ideas, and the unrelenting passion for cool science electrified all of our meetings and culminated in a finale of projects that promised to make our world (and solar system!) a better place. Now, I am excitedly returning to be a mentor again, and I cannot wait to engage with the brightest space scientists that this solar system has seen – you!

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