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Genes in Space High School STEM Competition Names Two Winning Teams

Press Releases | July 20, 2017

Genes in Space named two winners of its third US competition. In an unprecedented tie, Sophia Chen from Washington and Elizabeth Reizis from New York will both have their experiments performed aboard the International Space Station (ISS) using miniPCR™ technology.

The innovative Genes in Space contest called for students in grades 7 through 12 to design an experiment to solve a real-life space exploration challenge through DNA analysis. The competition was founded by miniPCR and Boeing and is sponsored by Math for America, CASIS, New England Biolabs®, and FedEx.

Sophia Chen (14) from Lakeside School, Washington, aims to measure cancer-inducing genomic instability in astronauts. She was mentored by her ninth-grade teacher David Joneschild.

Elizabeth Reizis (14) from Stuyvesant High School, New York, wants to assess the effects of microgravity on the differentiation of immune system cells. Elizabeth is a student of MƒA Master Teacher Jessica Quenzer, who served as her mentor throughout the Genes in Space application process. Quenzer also served as a mentor to last year's winner Julian Rubinfien.

Chen’s and Reizis’ winning experiments were announced today at the ISS Research and Development Conference in Washington, D.C. They were chosen from a competitive group of 375 applications from across the country. They were among five finalist teams who were invited to present their proposals before a prestigious panel of scientists, educators, and technologists at the conference. The distinguished panel of judges included: Dr. Philip Schein, member of the board of CASIS; Michelle Daly, MƒA Master Teacher; Ezequiel Alvarez Saavedra, Ph.D., co-founder of miniPCR; Nicole Nichols, Ph.D, Group Leader at New England Biolabs; Brice Gaudilliere, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Stanford University; and Sarah Wallace, Ph.D. microbiologist at NASA.

Genes in Space promotes youth scientific engagement and DNA research in space. The first Genes in Space experiment by 17-year-old high-school student Anna-Sophia Boguraev of Bedford, N.Y., was the first DNA amplification experiment ever conducted in space. Chen and Reizis will both have their experiments performed in low Earth orbit aboard the ISS and will be invited to watch the launch of their experiments into space.

Their winning experiments will continue to build genetic analysis capabilities aboard ISS and inspire the next generation of space biologists.

For more information about the Genes in Space and all other awardees, visit:

About the Sponsoring Organizations


A unit of The Boeing Company, Defense, Space & Security is one of the world's largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Defense, Space & Security is a $31 billion business with 53,000 employees worldwide. Follow us on Twitter: @BoeingDefense.

Math for America

Math for America is a nonprofit organization that aims to make teaching a viable, rewarding, and respected career choice for the best minds in science and mathematics. The MƒA Master Teacher Fellowship achieves this goal by bringing together outstanding, experienced teachers to share knowledge, advance teaching skills, and define excellence itself. This remarkable community of teachers is changing the very landscape of science and mathematics education. MƒA offers fellowships and advocates for this model around the country, so that all students can have great math and science teachers—teachers who are true masters of the subject matter and deeply committed to the craft of teaching.


miniPCR reinvents lab technology to make science simple, accessible, and exciting, enabling everyone to experiment at the cutting edge of biology.

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)

CASIS was selected by NASA in July 2011 to maximize use of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory through 2020. CASIS is dedicated to supporting and accelerating innovations and new discoveries that will enhance the health and wellbeing of people and our planet.

New England Biolabs, Inc. (NEB)

NEB is the industry leader in the discovery and production of enzymes for molecular biology applications and now offers the largest selection of recombinant and native enzymes for genomic research. For over 40 years, NEB has been committed to the advancement of science and science education. For more information on our products and corporate initiatives, please visit