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High School Students Launch ‘Genes in Space’ Experiments to International Space Station

Press Releases | April 2, 2018

The winners of the 2017 Genes in Space competition, Sophia Chen, 15, of Washington and Elizabeth Reizis, 15, of New York, will see their DNA experiments launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 2, aboard NASA’s Commercial Resupply mission, CRS-14. The experiments will be carried out aboard the ISS using miniPCR technology.

Chen and Reizis will test DNA-based assays that could help monitor astronaut health in future missions. Chen was mentored by David Joneschild, teacher at Lakeside School, and Harvard Ph.D. candidate John Hatch. Her experiment will focus on a genetic test to measure genomic instability and cancer risk in astronauts. Exposure to the space environment may lead to an increased rate of mutations in astronauts’ DNA. One form of mutation, microsatellite instability, has been previously associated with cancer. Chen’s experiment will make use of two techniques - multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and capillary electrophoresis - in an effort to establish an assay which could be used to monitor astronauts’ genomic integrity during prolonged space travel.

Reizis aims to monitor immune function in space using DNA-based methods. Previous research suggests astronauts’ immune systems become compromised in space. Normal development of T-cells is essential for immune system function and to combat infections. Reizis’ experiment will attempt to detect DNA fragments called T-cell receptor excision circles (TRECs), which serve as an indicator of T-cell development. If successful, a DNA-based assay to detect TRECs in space could serve as a readout of immune system integrity during space travel. Reizis was mentored by Math for America Master Teacher Jessica Quenzer at Stuyvesant High School and Dr. Diana Cai of Harvard University.  

About Genes in Space

Genes in Space is a national STEM contest that challenges students in grades 7 through 12 to design DNA analysis experiments using the ISS National Lab, a platform for cutting edge research and technology development that enables future deep space exploration. The contest is a collaboration between miniPCR and Boeing with generous support from CASIS (manager of the ISS National Lab), Math for America, and New England Biolabs®.

The U.S. competition is accepting student projects for 2018. Submission deadline is April 20th. Learn more: 

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

At MƒA, we’ve created fellowships for accomplished mathematics and science teachers. Our model is based on the belief that collaboration, continued learning, and genuine respect enables teachers to grow professionally and provides long-term career satisfaction. This is a remarkable community of teachers who stay in the profession longer and define what teaching excellence means. These are teachers who inspire and motivate their colleagues. They change the lives of their students. Learn more at


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