Dear Life Journal Editors: As a person with strong interest in biological life support systems (BLSS), I was excited to read a recent review published in your journal by Alex Ellery entitled “Supplementing Closed Ecological Life Support Systems with In-Situ Resources on the Moon“. However, as I read it, my excitement turned to dismay. Although […]Read More A Gentle Critique of a Biological Life Support System Review
One of my favorite parts of being involved in space biology, is getting to do outreach for students. I’ve had the pleasure of zooming with several classes of kids involved in the STARward STEM program, a project-based learning experience where elementary students design experiments for spaceflight. I’m writing this blog post for teachers involved in […]Read More Designing MixStix Space Biology Experiments: A Teacher’s Guide
When I was a teenager, I dreamed of being an engineer at NASA. To prepare myself for my dreamed-of-profession, I set upon the task of “learning to build things”. I cobbled together a motor out of a knitting needle and cork, I attempted to build bird houses, and I tried to teach myself to solder. […]Read More Failure is an option: How to beat imposter syndrome when your science isn’t working
I’ve mentioned before how plants sense gravity and how we can trick them into thinking they are “weightless” like astronauts in spaceflight by using a slowly rotating device called a clinostat. This post is the first of DIY Clinostat instructions that may be useful for other students and home hobbyists interested in ground-based astrobotany research. […]Read More DIY Clinostat: Retrofit a Tube Mixer
mRNA is all in the news these days, since it’s a key component of Covid vaccines. I’ve written before about how RNA functions, but that’s all very abstract. What does it actually look like to work with RNA? It’s very much like cooking with miniature equipment: tiny smoothie makers, tiny coffee filters, and very fast […]Read More What Does Extracting RNA Look Like?
“Darwin was wrong!” I shouted in frustration to my husband. I was trying to re-create an experiment of Darwin’s for an outreach event at a local museum. My plants were supposed to be leaning towards the light, but instead they were just kind of sitting there. “Darwin was wrong?” my husband laughed. “Are you sure […]Read More What Does Charles Darwin Have to Do with Astrobotany?
Movies are full of mutant creations that cause havoc. Sometimes these mutants are science experiments gone awry; sometimes they got too close to radioactive waste. (Occasionally, the mutants are turtles with a penchant for pizza.) Whatever the origin story, mutant creatures usually gain some amazing new ability or super strength; so when I tell people […]Read More Mutant Powers
You are a spectacular specimen. If you zoom in on any part of your body, you would discover that you are made up of thousands of microscopic self-contained living entities—your cells. Each of these tiny packages of life can grow, feed, sense, and reproduce like an independent living thing. But your cells are not independent; […]Read More Picturesque Plant Cells
Have you heard words like gene, DNA, and RNA thrown around, but aren’t quite sure what they mean? Are you fuzzy on the difference between a genome and transcriptome? Read on then. This post is for you, and I promise by the end, you will find that all those fancy sounding science terms are a […]Read More RNA is a Piece of Cake
“There’s much more dishwashing in science than the movies led me to believe,” exclaimed a colleague of mine. Never were truer words spoken. Many folks think that scientists spend their days stirring steaming beakers, messing with DNA, or poking at whirring machines. Indeed, I will do those things for my space botany project, but much […]Read More Lab Chores