NASA, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Award Fellowships to Study Space Station Microbes

NASA and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation will support rising academic stars in International Space Station (ISS) science with two-year, $700,000 in funding for five proposals to support post-doctoral fellowships from early career scientists. The scientists will perform experiments that take advantage of a NASA collection of microbes collected from the ISS to better understand how microbial communities colonize, adapt and evolve in the unique environment of microgravity on board the space station.

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Apr 19, 2017
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NASA's Space Biology Program and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation will fund five proposals from post-doctoral applicants that will characterize microbial populations isolated from the International Space Station (ISS). NASA and the Sloan Foundation agreed through a Space Act Agreement to work in parallel for a common purpose: to sponsor studies designed to provide insight into the microbiome of the built environment of the space station that will advance our knowledge and understanding of human-built habitats on Earth, to enhance utilization of the space station, and to inform the designers and developers of future space exploration vehicles that are to be occupied by humans.

NASA and the Sloan Foundation solicited applications through parallel research announcements for post-doctoral fellowships from early career scientists to design experiments that use a NASA collection of microbial isolates collected from the space station over more than a decade in order to better understand how microbial communities colonize, adapt, and evolve on the space station. Applicants submitted proposals in response to the NASA Research Announcement (NRA) NHH16ZTT001N-MoBE, "Appendix B: Research Opportunities for Post-Doctoral Fellowships in Space Biology to Study the Microbiome of the ISS as a Built Environment: Using ISS as a Microbiological Observatory,” and to the Sloan Announcement SLOANMOBE2016, “Research Opportunities for Post-Doctoral Fellowships in Space Biology to Study the Microbiome of the ISS as a Built Environment: Using ISS as a Microbiological Observatory.”

The selected post-doctoral applicants represent five institutions in three states. When fully implemented, these fellowships have a total value of about $700,000 during a two-year period. These funded research projects will examine how the space flight environment influences genetic changes in microorganisms and contributes to changes in microbial virulence and resistance to antimicrobial agents. Additionally, these projects will study how microbes from these isolates form biofilms, as well as how they contribute to the bio-corrosion of materials.

  • Fellow: Melissa Dsouza, University of Auckland, New Zealand
    PI-Advisor: Kasthuri Venkateswaran, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    Investigating mechanisms for the acquisition and prevalence of antibiotic resistance genes in the ISS cultivable microbiome.
    Awarded by the NASA Space Biology Program.
  • Fellow: Michael Lee, University of Southern California
    PI-Advisor: Craig Everroad, NASA Ames Research Center
    Microbial evolution and transmission aboard the ISS: inferring mutation rates, assessing pangenomes, and tracking microbiome transmission between astronauts and the space-based built environment.
    Awarded by the NASA Space Biology Program.
  • Fellow: Aubrie O’Rourke, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
    PI-Advisor: William Nierman, J. Craig Venter Institute
    Virulence and drug resistance of Burkholderia species isolated from ISS potable water systems.
    Awarded by the NASA Space Biology Program.
  • Fellow: Blake Stamps, University of Oklahoma
    PI-Advisor: John Spear, Colorado School of Mines
    Biodeterioration and Biocorrosion in Spaceflight Ecosystems: Implications for Material/ Microbiome Interactions on the International Space Station.
    Awarded by the Sloan Foundation.
  • Fellow: Jiseon Yang, Arizona State University
    PI-Advisor: Cheryl Nickerson, Arizona State University
    Developing predictive model systems of polymicrobial biofilm formation and susceptibility to chemical disinfectant: A longitudinal study with implications for spaceflight systems integrity and health risks.
    Awarded by the Sloan Foundation.

The Space Biology Program is managed by the Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications Division in NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington, DC.

The Microbiology of the Built Environment (MoBE) Program is managed by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a charitable foundation based in New York City that supports research in science, technology, and economics.

Go to the profile of Joseph Caspermeyer

Joseph Caspermeyer

Managing Editor, Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University

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