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Nimitz MS students and Texas Tech researchers work on novel treatment for cancer

A group of student researchers from Ector County ISD is working together on a novel treatment for cancer in space. Our Ector County ISD Innovation Department introduced this opportunity as part of the PICK Education’s model, which serves to bring real-world experiences into the classroom.

The students are 6th graders from Nimitz Middle School and they have been working with Texas Tech University’s Health Science Center (TTUHSC) in Odessa to design a science experiment that will be flown to the International Space Station in July.

The group traveled from Odessa to Lubbock on June 18 to meet a team of researchers from the Department of Surgery at Texas Tech to load their experiment samples for spaceflight during a video conference with NanoRacks. The experiment will study the activation of the spores in the bacterium, Clostridium sporogenes, in microgravity. The study aims to treat colon cancer with a novel method for astronauts exposed to radiation in space. The experiment is set to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on the SpaceX CRS-18 this July.

Nimitz Middle School was one of three ECISD finalists in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). This is ECISD’s second year to be selected into SSEP, and is 1 of 38 communities participating in the competition across three countries; U.S., Canada and Brazil. The group of 6th graders will also travel to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia to attend the 2019 SSEP National Conference, hosted by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE). The students will be presenting their experiment design and attend featured presentations by nationally recognized scientists, engineers and astronauts.

SSEP is designed as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education initiative, and gives students the opportunity to become researchers where they are able to design and propose real microgravity experiments to be conducted by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program [or SSEP] is a program of the NCESSE in the U.S. and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC, which are working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.  

Funding was provided by a grant from the Texas Space Grant Consortium, Subaru of America, Inc., Chevron and Education Foundation of Odessa. A special thank you to these individuals from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Odessa— Dr. Natalia Schlabritz-Lutsevich, Dr. Kushal Gandhi, Dr. Seheung Lee and Aneesh Bapodra.

A researcher from Texas Tech watches one of the Nimitz students fill a vile for the experiment.

The group of Nimitz students poses for a picture inside one of Texas Tech's labs.