Welcome to the Genes in Space challenge
- Design a DNA research proposal in space biology
- Compete for a chance to launch your experiment into space
- Join the first generation of space DNA scientists
Explore our Learn page to get started on your submission
- Engage students in authentic research
- Conduct pioneering science with real-world outcomes
- Participate in unique professional development opportunities
Download a classroom guide to help develop Genes in Space proposals
USA Finalists will
USA Winners will
- Send their DNA experiment to the International Space Station
- Travel to see the space launch of their experiment
- Participate in Space Biology Camp
- Be listed as Principal Investigator in NASA documents
- Become a space DNA pioneer!
- Applicants must live in the USA and be in grades 7-12
- Applications can be submitted by individuals or teams of up to 4 students
- Applications must be sponsored by an adult educator (e.g. a teacher, parent/guardian, or science enthusiast)
- Applicants must be available to present at the 2019 ISS R&D Conference in Atlanta, July 29 - August 1 (funding for travel provided)
- Applicants must propose a DNA analysis experiment to be conducted aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and describe what role the ISS and PCR technology play in your experiment.
International Space Station
The ISS on-orbit laboratory enables scientific research supporting innovation on Earth and serves as a testbed for deep space exploration. Fifteen countries collaborated to assemble the world's only permanently crewed orbital facility. This research platform houses a crew of six and 150 ongoing experiments across an array of scientific disciplines. Its interior living space is comparable to a five-bedroom home, complete with two bathrooms and exercise accommodations. Learn more.
Work on your proposal individually or as a team of up to 4 students, mentored by an adult educator (e.g. teacher, parent/guardian, or science enthusiast)
January 14, 2019
April 19, 2019
May 21, 2019
August 1, 2019
Space Biology Camp
YOUR DNA EXPERIMENT IN SPACE
Your submission will be judged by a panel of scientists and thought leaders on the creative and scientific merit of your experimental idea
Submissions are reviewed blindly by a panel of Ph.D.-trained scientists and experienced space technologists. Your application will be scored on the creative and scientific merit of your experimental idea.
- i. Have you identified an interesting question? 25 points
- ii. Have you stated a clear hypothesis? 25 points
- iii. Does your hypothesis require the unique environment of the ISS? 30 points
- iv. Does your experimental design make creative use of PCR in space? 20 points
What is the deadline again?
You must submit your experimental idea online on or before April 19, 2019, 11:59pm PDT.
Do I need any biotechnology equipment or access to a lab to enter the competition?
No. Your submission will be judged on creative and scientific merit of your idea. If selected as the winner, you will attend Space Biology Camp to prepare your experiment for space travel.
Does my experiment need to use Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)?
Yes, PCR needs to play a role in your experiment. However, access to a PCR machine or prior knowledge of how to use a PCR machine is not required. Finalists will receive miniPCR DNA Discovery SystemTM for their schools.
Can I access other molecular biology tools aboard the ISS?
The field of space DNA research is so nascent that we can only provide limited access to additional DNA analysis equipment on-orbit, beyond the miniPCR thermal cycler. Most prior Genes in Space experiments have analyzed DNA samples by gel electrophoresis of samples returned to Earth. The Genes in Space-3 investigation has recently opened up the possibility of direct DNA sequencing of samples amplified on-orbit. Genes in Space winners will work alongside their mentors, astronauts, and space biologists to push the boundaries of DNA analysis in space!
What biotech equipment will finalist schools be awarded?
Finalists will be awarded the miniPCR DNA Discovery SystemTM including a miniPCRTM machine and a blueGelTM electrophoresis system. More details
If I win, will my experiment be done in space?
Yes! The winning experimental design will be conducted aboard the International Space Station, pending approval from Center for the Advancement for Science In Space (CASIS). The exact launch date will be determined after winners are announced.
Will I be able to get the sample back after the experiment?
Yes, the experimental plan includes returning your DNA samples back to Earth for further analysis, validation, controls, or just to store a piece of Space DNA!
Can my experiment utilize quantitative PCR (qPCR)?
miniPCR is a conventional (end point) PCR thermal cycler. However, you can propose an experiment that uses quantitative PCR (also referred to as real-time PCR or qPCR). It won’t affect your chances of winning the competition.
- Will the finalist entries be published?
What happens at the ISS R&D conference?
USA Finalists will have the unique opportunity to attend a USA Finalist reception, STEM tours, and to present their designs and obtain feedback from a panel of science, technology, and education experts at the ISS R&D Conference, in Atlanta, July 29 - August 1, 2019.
What does the ISS R&D travel award cover?
Up to $4000 per USA finalist team can be used to reimburse transportation and lodging expenses.
Do I need to be available to attend the ISS R&D Conference, July 29 - August 1, 2019?
For USA teams, at least one team member and one adult chaperone must be available for travel.
I have so many great ideas, can I submit more than one proposal to the Genes in Space contest?
No, not to the same Genes in Space contest. We can only accept one proposal per student per contest year. However you are welcome to participate in Genes in Space every year that you are eligible. That means you can submit your best idea this year and save you other ideas to submit in future years.
I don't attend school in the United States, can I participate?
Unfortunately no, the current Genes in Space contest is only open to students in 7-12 grade in the United States. In 2016 we offered a contest in the United Arab Emirates and hope to offer more international contests in the future.
- My question has not been answered. What do I do if I have another question?