Faculty in the News In the News

November 9, 2018 at 11:48 am

Research Team Gets Award for Problem-Solving on International Space Station

Dr. Sarah Wyatt, portrait

Dr. Sarah Wyatt

Dr. Sarah Wyatt’s team was mentioned in an Ohio Wesleyan University news release about researchers getting a NASA Ames Research Center Honor Award for problem-solving on the International Space Station during their study of how plants grow in outer space.

Wyatt is Professor of Environmental & Plant Biology and Director of Molecular and Cellular Biology. Ohio Wesleyan University Professor Chris Wolverton received the award.

“In the case of our experiment,” he continued, “we started to have problems with the equipment that we were using to grow our plants, which meant that many people around the world had to come together to problem-solve and troubleshoot, then to re-write procedures and plans on the fly, sometimes under very short time constraints.

“This award recognizes the incredible effort, skill, and judgment of the team that managed to eke out every bit of science possible under very unpredictable and difficult circumstances,” said Wolverton, who began working on the project in earnest in 2015 after receiving NASA funding. “We ended up with enough data to address almost all of our objectives from the flight phase of the project, which simply would never have been possible without this incredible team of people.”

The Plant Gravity Perception project was launched into space on Dec. 15, 2017, aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-13 rocket. The research involved growing two types of common mustard plants aboard the International Space Station in varying conditions to determine how much gravity was needed for the plants to sense it and to respond with traditional downward root growth.

After the research was completed, the plants were frozen and returned to earth in May for additional study, which Wolverton is conducting with Sarah Wyatt, Ph.D., a professor of environmental and plant biology at Ohio University.

Next up for the team is for Wyatt’s lab at Ohio University to extract the RNA from the frozen seedlings and determine how fractional gravity influences patterns of gene expression across all parts of the plant.

Read more at Ohio Wesleyan News.

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