ABU DHABI // A competition that is offering pupils the opportunity to see their ideas tested in space is now taking submissions.
With the deadline for Genes in Space less than two weeks away, pupils are submitting their experiment ideas to provide further insight into how the building blocks of life are affected by low gravity.
Understanding which human genes fare better in space and exploring the effects of microgravity on astronauts’ psyche through genetic mutation are some of the ideas being put forward.
Aisha Almaazm said her four-member team wanted to get a head start on the competition when they submitted their experiment on Thursday.
“It was a relief to finally get it in,” said the 12th grader at Dubai’s Al Mizhar American Academy.
After a month of research and refinement, the 16-year-old said coming up with an idea her whole team was interested in was the biggest hurdle.
Once they learned about the hardy tardigrade, a water-dwelling organism that is able to survive in the vacuum of space for at least 10 days, the team opted to focus on looking for equally robust genes within humans to aid in long-term space travel.
A group of Cambridge High School Abu Dhabi students, also studying the impact of long-duration space missions, chose to focus on the possible effect of low gravity environment on the mental health of astronauts through genetic mutation.
Marlyn Mathew said her team was looking to see if microgravity had any effect on genetic modification, which could lead to depleted serotonin and depression. “Astronauts are trapped in a very small, enclosed space and very prone to depression.”
The 18-year-old said the study was relevant with the strong possibility of astronauts being sent on long missions to Mars.
Having decided to study forensic science at university because of its practical application of science, Marlyn said the competition was a great opportunity to work on something that could be applied to space.
“It is great to work on something related to what I have been studying and to be one of the finalist would be one of the most amazing things ever.”
Alyazia AlMarzooqi, one of Aisha’s partners, said even if they were not chosen as a finalist she had still learned much from the experience.
“It’s something I will remember for a long time because of how enriching it was.”
Now in the 11th grade, the 15-year-old said she was inspired by the opportunity to be mentored by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduates, a benefit extended to the competition’s finalist.
“It’s my dream to attend MIT. I was thinking of studying chemical engineering but now I’m leaning towards aerospace.”
Having previously been involved in high school science competitions when she studied in New York City, teacher Chastine Cardenas said such contests were a great way to motivate children in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (Stem) subjects.
“The students get to learn about the research process and topics they usually would have not studied,” said the Al Mizhar American Academy biology teacher.
Submissions are now being accepted for Genes in Space from pupils in grades 7 to 12 at genesinspace.org. The deadline is February 11.
For more information, follow #theuaespacestory on social media or visit thenational.ae/uae/genes-in-space.
Source: uae news