Who can participate?
You must live in the USA and be in grades 7-12
You can work alone or in a team of up to 4 students
You must be available to present at the Genes in Space
virtual finals July 26-29, 2021
We encourage you to seek mentorship from
a teacher, parent, or another science enthusiast
APPLYING IS EASY
We invite you to design a DNA experiment that addresses challenges in space travel and deep space exploration. From bacterial cell growth to the human immune system, everything works a little differently in space.
Choose a topic that interests you and tell us why it’s important for space exploration.
Need help getting started?
Watch videos about current space biology research
Propose a clear hypothesis. Here’s where the research comes in: what’s already known about this system on Earth and in space?
Visit the Genes in Space Learn page
Your experiment should make creative use of one or more elements of the Genes in Space toolkit. Select the tools that are best suited to solving your problem and explain how you’ll use them to answer your question.
As the only permanently crewed orbiting research facility, the ISS is a precious resource. Explain why this unique environment is required to test your hypothesis. How will humanity – whether in space or on Earth – benefit from your work?.
Check your work and send your application off! Know that at the other end, our panel of scientists can’t wait to review your proposal.
The 2021 contest has closed. Learn what we're up to on our blog!
25 awardees will receive a
miniPCR DNA Discovery SystemTM
for their schools or educational institutions.
This is the same DNA analysis technology
aboard the ISS!
Provide a short video pitch on your experiment for a chance to advance as a Finalist.
Receive mentoring from Harvard and MIT scientists.
Present proposals to the Genes in Space judges for a chance to win.
Participate in Space Biology Camp to prepare your experiment for space travel.
Travel to Kennedy Space Center to see the launch.
Launch your DNA experiment to space!
For students in grades 7-8 with outstanding ideas.
For the schools with the most
submissions from each of
the five regions of the U.S.
For teams whose proposals
display remarkable scientific
rigor and creativity.
You must submit your experimental idea online on or before April 12, 2021, 11:59pm PDT.
Yes. The Finals — wherein students present their proposals to our judges and a winner is selected — will be held virtually again this year. The finals will take place the week of July 26th. More details will be shared as the schedule is finalized.
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.
No! New in 2021, PCR is not required. Instead you may use any tool in the Genes in Space toolkit - alone or together. However, access to these tools or prior knowledge of how to use them is not required. 25 awardees will receive miniPCR DNA Discovery SystemTM for their schools.
For the purposes of your proposal, yes. Your Genes in Space proposal may include any tool that is necessary for your experiment. 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!
25 schools will be awarded the miniPCR DNA Discovery SystemTM including a miniPCR® machine and a blueGelTM electrophoresis system. More details
Yes! The winning experimental design will be conducted aboard the International Space Station, pending approval from The ISS U.S. National Laboratory. The exact launch date will be determined after winners are announced.
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!
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.
All finalists will be announced on this website, Genes in Space newsletter, and on Twitter and Facebook. Previous USA finalists have been featured in Forbes, Boston Globe, Scientific American blogs, and other media. Additionally, 2019 and 2020 finalists have published their proposals in the Journal of Emerging Investigators.
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.
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.
Absolutely! In fact, our 2018 winning team was made up of students from different high schools.
Yes! We welcome submissions from homeschooled students.