A team of student researchers from the University of North Dakota (UND) won the 2018 Ken Souza Memorial Student Spaceflight Research Competition, wherein first place is a $1,000 grant and a free ride for their science on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.
The competition, which began in 2016, is hosted by the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR) and encourages student investigators to develop and compete original research proposals in the fields of space life and physical sciences.
The winning team was formally announced at the ASGSR Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, on November 3, 2018. Co-team leader James Stoffel was there to accept the award. The UND team, called the “Dinonauts”, also includes co-team leader Laura Banken and fellow student researchers Sophie Orr, Terry Rector, Marissa Saad, Dario Schor, Feraidoon Bourbour, and Eryn Beisner, along with their faculty mentor Professor Michael Dodge J.D., LL.M.
The 2018 winning proposal is entitled “Dinoflagellates (Bioluminescent Phytoplankton): A Study of Enzyme Kinetics in Microgravity”. The experiment uses bioluminescent algae, called Dinoflagellates, to study the influence of microgravity on biochemical reactions at the cellular level. The knowledge gained from the experiment will complement ongoing research efforts on the effects of microgravity on the human body— specifically skeletal, muscular, and cardiac systems, which need to be better understood for long duration manned spaceflight.
Earlier this year the Dinonauts team tested their experiment prototype through UND’s high altitude balloon program, which launches science payloads into Earth’s upper atmosphere using specialized balloons. The prototype achieved a height of over 90,000 feet and demonstrated the experiment’s baseline capabilities. Using the information from this first test flight, the team will continue to develop their experiment for their upcoming spaceflight with Blue Origin.
To follow the team’s progress please visit:
For further inquiries, please contact Eryn Beisner at UNDDinonauts@gmail.com
Below: Dinonauts Co-Team Leader James Stoffel (right) with Dr. Erika Wagner (left) from Blue Origin and Mary Souza (middle) at the 2018 ASGSR conference to formally announce the winning team for the Ken Souza Memorial Student Spaceflight Research Competition.