Derek Fleming, Ph.D, pictured right, giving a demonstration to Nimitz Middle School students.
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) hosted five students from Nimitz
Middle School in Odessa, TX to conduct an experiment that will be sent to the International
Space Station (ISS) where the experiment will also be conducted.
Julia Wolfenbarger, NanoRacks LLC Mission Manager, oversaw the experiment through videoconference to ensure the lab kits were properly prepared to send to space. NanoRacks LLC is the provider of lab kits used in the experiment.
TTUHSC has collaborated with five seventh graders as they work to send a lab experiment to space.
“Radiation in space causes colon cancer, and so we are trying to find a way to treat
the colon cancer in space,” said seventh grader Sydney Richardson. Their research
involves using bacteria as a form of cancer treatment. This isn’t a new practice as
bacterium has been found to shrink tumors according to the American Association for
Cancer Research. However, rarely has this practice been tested abroad the ISS.
Students had to submit an original research proposal that would be chosen among competing proposals from other schools through an education initiative called the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). Nimitz science teachers Priscilla Torres & Courtney Smith had guided the students through this process as they address suggestions provided by SSEP. Theirs ultimately won over an intense competition—even against high schools.
These students hope to find a cure for astronauts who experience cancer in space.
“I feel we are making a difference,” said Maryam Akram, who is also a part of the
student group. Jean Machado-Torres, another Nimitz student, has taken great pride
to be apart of something that is bigger than himself. He also hopes that this program
will help better educate the community on bacteria.
And beyond the health innovations, this will at the end of the day provide a hands-on learning experience that will help in developing the students’ career path. According to Torres, this program has given students involvement in scientific proposals, experimental design, and effective secondary research.