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Student DNA Analysis to be Performed Aboard International Space Station

Some scientists dream of having their work performed in space, or work a lifetime to have that dream come to fruition. Last week, Boeing helped one student researcher take a step closer towards making this dream a reality.

Genes in SpaceTM named Julian Rubinfien, a high school student from New York, the winner of the second annual Genes in SpaceTM competition. The innovative contest challenges students in grades seven through 12 to design an experiment to solve a real-life space exploration problem through DNA analysis. His winning experiment will be demonstrated aboard the International Space Station (ISS) using miniPCR™ technology

“Boeing is committed to STEM programs such as Genes in SpaceTM which are designed to excite and engage the next generation of engineers, scientists and astronauts,” said Mark Mulqueen, ISS program manager. “This competition aims to foster creativity, collaboration and critical thinking among young innovators by incorporating active-learning and real-world experience with engineering professionals working on the International Space Station.”

Rubinfien (15) aims to study genetic processes that may lead to accelerated aging in space. His experiment seeks to measure the length of telomeres, chromosome end-caps, that when shortened can lead to premature aging. Rubinfien hypothesizes that the microgravity environment aboard ISS alters the length of telomeres, thus contributing to accelerated aging experienced by astronauts.  His experiment utilizes a PCR-based assay and human organoids, a three-dimensional organ-bud grown in-vitro that shows realistic micro-anatomy, to measure telomeres aboard the ISS.

The winning experiment was announced at the 2016 ISS Research and Development Conference in San Diego, Calif. July 14. Rubinfien was chosen from a competitive group of more than 380 applications from across the country. He was among five finalist teams who were invited to present their proposals before a prestigious panel of scientists, educators, and technologists at the conference. Rubinfien will have his experiment performed 250 miles above the Earth aboard the ISS and will be invited to view the launch of his experiment into orbit.

The Genes in SpaceTM competition is supported by Boeing, miniPCR, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, New England Biolabs®, Inc., and Math for America.2016 GiS winner Rubinfien and Cassada 1

NASA Astronaut Josh Cassada (l.) announced Julian Rubinfien (r.), a high school student from New York, as the winner of the second annual Genes in SpaceTM competition. As NASA’s prime contractor for the space station, Boeing will help Rubinfien ready his winning experiment for launch to the International Space Station.