Space Biology

Human Health and Disease

from Space to Earth

The Idea

The goal of this website is to promote space biology education to university professors and grade 6-12 educators on a national level. Lecture and lab course materials from an upper level undergraduate space biology course are available for download by any interested person, educator, and the space biology community. These resources can serve as a starting point for other educators to develop similar courses, and, depending on the instructor, they could be adopted directly for curricular use in lecture and laboratory sections with little to no modification by a new space biology instructor.

The Course

NASA and other space agencies have been sending humans to space for over 5 decades. Since the year 2000, humans have been living and conducting experiments on the International Space Station, which orbits the Earth. What have we learned about human biology from our time spent in space? How do the experiments conducted in space help us understand human physiology, health, and disease here on Earth? How will they help us prepare for future human adaptation to space? This course will use primary literature articles to explore these questions and address ongoing research being performed to prepare for long-term space flight. The laboratory portion of the course will provide hands-on experience with bioinformatics, bioengineering, a genetics assay, and image analysis. The class will also take field trips to local institutions to work with and hear from scientists in the field of space biology.

Learning Goals and Objectives:

    • Students will be able to critically read, analyze, discuss, and present primary literature articles from the field of space biology.
    • Students will formulate a holistic view on the interdisciplinary nature of space biology research for contributing to an understanding of human health and disease.
    • Students will be able to engage in conversation and ask questions of professional scientists in the field of space biology.
    • Students will be able to communicate the purpose of the research and experiments being conducted on the International Space Station National Laboratory to the general public through the production of slide sets and informational resources for the newly designed Carthage-hosted space biology website.
    • Students will be able to use bioinformatics databases to identify candidate genes involved in microgravity response.
    • Students will be able to engineer a 3D-printed “payload” for microgravity experiments on the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana.
    • Students will be able to utilize image analysis software to analyze data collected from their experiments.
    • Students will be able to demonstrate their knowledge of the scientific method by developing a scientific question, performing an experiment to address that question, collecting and analyzing data, stating conclusions, and orally presenting the study.

This course and the website are funded by a Higher Education Incentive award from the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium and by Carthage College, Kenosha, Wisconsin.