This is my story
I am working on an experiment that will be onboard the SpaceX Dragon, the first commercial flight to the International Space Station, when it launches in spring, 2012. Students from the University High School of Science and Engineering and the Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School came up with the idea to study bone loss in space and I am helping them with their project. The experiment involves the use of tissue culture, which requires special laboratory equipment that the students do not have at their schools. I was recruited to help the students because I have experience with tissue cultures and the University has the facilities the students need to carry out their experiment.
When astronauts spend extended periods of time in space, they experience significant bone loss as well as muscle loss. The goal of this experiment is to find out whether there is away to counteract the effect of microgravity on bone density. Research has shown that parathyroid hormone, which is normally found in the body, will increase bone cell growth, so we’re testing whether parathyroid hormone will have that same effect in space. This experiment has applications for astronauts in space, and could also impact people on earth who are suffering bone loss due to osteoporosis.
In addition to working on this project, I am also conducting breast cancer research. I study a protein called p53, which protects cells and prevents from them from becoming cancerous, and try to understand what goes wrong with p53 in cancer cells. For more information about my research, click here.
One of my primary goals is to involve undergraduate students as much as possible in my research. It takes mentoring. Professors need to reach out to young students to get them interested and excited about doing research.
For more information on the students and other organizations working on this experiment, click here.