Alabama high school students to present their NASA experiments, meet astronauts

Students will compete for $10,000 in scholarship money.

NASA studentsMicrogravity protein crystallization research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham could lead to new or improved protein structures — and future scientists.

With a grant from NASA, Lawrence DeLucas, O.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering, sent 96 proteins used in crystallization experiments aboard the International Space Station via the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket (SPX-3) in 2014. DeLucas also partnered with 10 Alabama high schools to connect more than 75 students interested in science with the experiment. They created their own set of crystallization experiments for two proteins (one of which is important in cystic fibrosis research) that were launched into space.

When the experiments returned, each group of students analyzed the microscopic and X-ray data for their samples and prepared posters; they will present their results to a panel of UAB scientists at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 9, in the Jefferson State Community College Administration Building banquet hall. The presentations will be judged, and the top group will be awarded scholarship money, with $10,000 going to the winning team, sponsored by The Greater Alabama Council of the Boy Scouts of America Youth Leadership Development Program (BSA-YLDP).

After the poster competition, the BSA-YLDP will host a banquet for participants with guest speakers, astronaut Owen Garriott, Ph.D., two-time NASA astronaut with flights on Skylab in 1973 and Space Lab-1 in 1983, and his son, Richard Garriott, entrepreneur and the world’s sixth private space explorer.