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High School Teams Selected as Finalists for National STEM Competition

Press Releases | May 21, 2019

Five teams of high school students were named finalists in the Genes in Space annual science competition, which challenges students from grades 7 through 12 to propose DNA analysis experiments that address real-life space exploration challenges. The winning experiment will be performed aboard the International Space Station (ISS). This year, more than 1700 students working across 789 teams submitted proposals to the competition.

In addition, MƒA Master Teacher Jessica Quenzer served as mentor for two student teams awarded honorable mentions. MƒA Master Teacher Khaled Mahmoud and MƒA Early Career Teachers Emily Schmidt and Max Chomet led The Bronx High School of Science team to win the Constellation Award for the Northeast region. Constellation Awards are granted to the school in each U.S. region with the highest number of submissions.

The five finalist teams will present their proposals to a panel of scientists and educators at the 2019 ISS Research and Development Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 31st. The panel will select and announce a winning team at the conclusion of the conference, on August 1st. The winners will prepare their experiment to be carried out on the ISS and will watch their experiment launch to space. Scientists from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will mentor the finalists as they prepare their presentations, and will continue to work with the winning team as they ready their experiment for spaceflight.

The 2019 Finalists:

  • Kevin Chen (16) and Alexa Knee (16) from Smithtown High School East, Saint James, NY
    • Topic: Mitochondrial DNA repair dynamics in microgravity
  • Claire Jin (16), Tori Sodeinde (15), and Jessica Zhang (15) from State College Area High School, State College, PA
    • Topic: Cellular mechanisms underlying astronaut bone density loss
  • Abinand Parthasarathy (16) from Clear Lake High School, Houston, TX
    • Topic: Reassortment of genetic material in the influenza A virus in space
  • Finsam Samson (18) and Yujie Wang (18) from Troy High School, Troy, MI
    • Topic: Neural physiology and plasticity in mammals during long-term spaceflight
  • Vivian Yee (15) from International Academy, Bloomfield Township, MI
    • Topic: Influence of microgravity on cytoskeleton organization during gamete formation

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.


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