Genes in Space® Competition

The Genes in Space competition is a national STEM competition that challenges students in grades 7 through 12 to propose DNA experiments to solve a space exploration problem. This annual competition was launched in 2015, and is a partnership between Boeing, Math for America, (MfA), miniPCR™, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and New England Biolabs®. The finalists are invited to present their ideas at the annual International Space Station (ISS) R&D Conference. The winning individual or team receives a miniPCR DNA Discovery System™ and is invited to attend a space biology camp at New England Biolabs, where they work with NEB scientists, as well as their mentor from Harvard or MIT, to refine their experiment and prepare it for execution aboard the ISS.

Learn more about the Genes in Space Competition.
Anna Sophia Borguraev was the winner of the first Genes in Space competition in 2015. The goal of her experiment was to determine whether or not epigenetic changes to DNA contribute to the weakened immune system observed in astronauts over time. Her proof of concept experiment was conducted aboard the ISS on April 19th, 2016, using a custom version of Q5® High Fidelity DNA Polymerase and the MiniPCR thermocycler, and represented the first successful PCR experiment performed in space.

Julian Rubinfien is the 2016 winner, and his experiments utilize both PCR and isothermal amplification with NEB’s WarmStart® Colorimetric LAMP 2X Master Mix to amplify telomeric DNA. The shortening of telomeres is commonly associated with aging, and this process may also be impacted by space flight.

Sophia Chen and Liza Reizis were the 2017 Genes in Space Winners. Sophia’s experiment involves understanding the effects of DNA damage in astronauts and their susceptibility to cancer, and Liza’s experiment involves studying the immune system of astronauts to better understand why they are more likely to get sick.

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