NCESSE Selects SHS Students’ Cancer Research Experiment to be Tested on the International Space Station in June

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Stamford Public Schools (SPS) announced that the National Center for Earth and Space Education (NCESSE) selected an experiment proposal developed by Stamford High School (SHS) Seniors Rithin Armstrong and Lizet Garcia for testing on the International Space Station (ISS) in this year’s Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) Mission 14. SSEP is a national science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education initiative of the NCESSE. The Mission 14 launch will occur in June 2020.
 
“We are so honored to be selected to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime learning experience,” said Sue Dougherty, SHS teacher and community program director for the Mission 14 to the ISS.  “This is the second time that a SHS team has been selected. In 2018, an SHS team’s experiment launched to the ISS as part of Mission 12.”
 
This unique STEM program gives students authentic experiences in designing their own experiments using microgravity labs and writing real-world flight proposals. A local panel of judges reviews each proposal and then submits them to SSEP for review by national judges, who choose the winning proposals. According to recently released NCESSE data for Mission 14, more than 3,000 student proposals were submitted, including graduate, undergraduate and high school submissions. Three SHS submissions were among the 97, just over 3.2% of the total number of proposals, selected to move to the SSEP review step two.
 
In addition to Armstrong and Garcia, two additional SHS student teams’ submissions were among the small number of proposals considered and recognized:
  • First Finalists SHS Juniors, Neisha Boiteux, Shaina Bond, Prisha Kulkarni, Rakshita Ramakrishna and Rachana Somaskandan for “The Effect of Microgravity on the Production of Amino Acids from C. glutamicum.
  • Finalists SHS Juniors John Falger, Panos Ketonis, Siddharth Kumar, Diana Vukel and Edward Yudolevich for “Efficacy of Escherichia coli K-12 in Space.”
            The SHS team’s winning proposal is “The Effect of Microgravity on the Ability of Galloflavin to Inhibit the Enzymatic Activity of Lactate Dehydrogenase A.” This experiment will analyze the effect of microgravity on the ability of Galloflavin, a lactate dehydrogenase inhibitor, to impair aerobic glycolysis and, as a result, inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Currently, Armstrong and Garcia are providing NASA Toxicology, SSEP and NanoRacks scientists with flight safety documentation and continuing ground truth experimentation with guidance from Dr. Jay Fleischman, Stamford ophthalmologist and retinal surgeon.  Fleischman worked at New York’s NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies while he completed his applied math/computer engineering and then medical degrees at Columbia University. He completed his ophthalmology training at the Wilmer Institute, Johns Hopkins and his retina specialty training at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
            SHS students are able to participate in this program, thanks to grant funds received from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium, People’s United Bank, The Fairfield County Community Foundation, the Stamford Rotary Club, EverSource Power, Subaru of America and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space CASIS.
In addition, as part of SSEP Mission 14, SPS students in grades K-8 grades and Stamford High School students in grades 9-12 can compete in a Mission Art Patch Design contest to begin in February. Students will create original designs in keeping with an almost 60-year space flight tradition. The two winning Mission Patches will also be in the Mission 14 payload.
            SHS will continue its fundraising efforts to send students to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to present their experiment to visitors at Johnson Space Center during the launch.  Interested donors should contact Sue Dougherty sdougherty@stamfordct.gov
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