Scholarship Opportunity at the Space Life Sciences Lab, Exploration Park at Kennedy Space Center

The NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) has one opportunity for a scholarship at the Space Life Sciences Laboratory (SLSL), Exploration Park at KSC, during the summer of 2022, under the mentorship of Dr. Andrew Schuerger, University of Florida. The   program usually commence on June 6, and conclude on August 19.  This will be a paid internship of $6,000 for the 10-week program. The student has to be a US Citizen

The goal of the scholarship program is to train and recruit Florida science/engineering students (US citizens only) into the aerospace & aviation workforce as future employees, while encouraging further study and academic achievement. Particular emphasis will be directed towards building and strengthening allegiances between Space Florida, Florida Space Grant Consortium, NASA-KSC, Florida Universities, as well as Space Life Sciences Laboratory & Exploration Park tenants.

Application and Project Description

Bacterial Survival under Simulated Conditions of Interplanetary Space

PI: Dr. Andrew C. Schuerger (UF); schuerg@ufl.edu

Program: Florida Space Grant Consortium Student Scholarship

Project Description: Microorganisms are present on interplanetary spacecraft and can survive the initial stresses of launch.  However, it is unknown whether spacecraft microbes can survive over long periods of time while spacecraft transit to the outer planets like Jupiter and Saturn.  Schuerger’s lab is funded by NASA’s Planetary Protection Office to study the interactive biocidal effects of four space conditions including: vacuum (VAC), solar heating (HEAT), solar UV irradiation (UV), and ionizing radiation (IRAD).  The student intern will work with Schuerger’s team of space astrobiologists to study the interactive biocidal effects of the 4 parameters listed above.  The VAC + UV + HEAT experiments will be conducted in Schuerger’s lab using his Planetary Atmospheric Chamber (PAC) that is capable of simulating both the Martian surface and interplanetary space conditions.  The IRAD + VAC experiments are conducted at multiple labs on the main campus of the Univ. of Florida and in Jacksonville, FL.  The IRAD experiments will use proton, electron, neutron, gamma-rays, or X-ray sources in other colleague’s labs to irradiate the bacterial spores.

The student will assist in creating spore monolayers of three Bacillus spp. on aluminum coupons, assist in exposing the samples to space conditions listed above, process the samples to estimate the numbers of survivors after exposure, and assist in the processing of data. 

The student should be in a microbiology or other life sciences major at Florida universities, and be able to travel independently to the Space Life Sciences Lab adjacent to the Kennedy Space Center, FL. 

The student has to be a US citizen. Permanent Residents are not eligible for this program

The project will run for 10 weeks through the summer.

Start-date: June 6, 2022; end-date: August 19, 2022 (10 weeks).

Budget: $6000.00 (student salary).

Send Applications to Dr. Andrew Schuerger at schuerg@ufl.edu and include a cover letter and CV.  All applicants must be enrolled in an undergraduate program at their respective universities during the summer.

Application Due Date: April 15, 2022

Suggested Reading:

Schuerger, A.C., Ulrich, R., Berry, B.J., and Nicholson, W.L. 2013. Growth of Serratia liquefaciens under 7mbar, 0°C, and CO2-enriched anoxic atmospheres. Astrobiology 13, 115-131, doi.org/10.1089/ast.2011.0811.

Schwendner, P., and Schuerger, A.C. 2018. Metabolic fingerprints of Serratia liquefaciens under simulated Martian conditions using Biolog GN2 microarrays. Scientific Reports 8, 15721, doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-33856-3.

Schwendner, P. M., and Schuerger, A. C. 2020. Exploring microbial activity in low-pressure environments. Curr. Issues Mol. Biol. 38:163-196, doi.org/10.21775/cimb.038.163.

Schuerger, A. C., Mickol, R. L., and Schwendner, P. M. 2020. The hypopiezotolerant bacterium, Serratia liquefaciens, fails to grow in Mars analog soils under simulated martian conditions at 7 hPa. Life 10,77, doi.org:10.3390/life10060077.