Madeleine Kavanagh is a BioNet member of the Society of Biology, this summer she won a sponsored place at ISSET‘s Mission Discovery. Further information on BioNet membership can be found on the Society of Biology’s website.
I was lucky enough to be able to attend Mission Discovery Space Camp last week, thanks to the Society of Biology. Space Camp is run by the International Space School Education Trust and is a week long course held at King’s College London, aimed at 14-19 year olds. It was run by Chris Barber, head of ISSET; Ken Ham, a NASA Astronaut; and Michelle Ham, NASA’s Lead Astronaut Trainer; as well as many scientists from Kings College.
The week was made up of a mixture of biomedical lectures from top scientists, such as Feynman Prize winner Dr James Tour; team challenges, such as designing our own mission patch and writing a newspaper article on astronaut Ken Ham’s experiences in space; and working on our biomedical experiment for the competition. Every team comes up with an experiment for the competition at the end of the week, the winners of which see their experiment launched into space to be carried out on the International Space Station.
Those of us staying on the residential course also had activities planned for us in the evenings. These ranged from writing poetry in the Houses of Parliament (which is going to be sent to the Moon later in the year!), to some of the more traditional touristy things to do in London, such as visiting Tower Bridge, the Tate Modern and shopping at Oxford Circus. The residential week culminated in dinner with Ken the astronaut and his wife, Michelle, the astronaut trainer. With only 30 people staying it was an amazing opportunity to learn first-hand what a trip into space really is like!
The final day of the week was spent presenting our ideas for our experiment to the panel of judges. It started off with the preliminary rounds, where the 32 groups were split up into small groups of 6 or 7 and had to present their ideas to 2 judges. The ensuing wait over lunch was nerve filled, before they revealed the finalists. My team made it through to the final with our experiment investigating whether the microgravity environment affects telomerase activity. We then had to repeat our presentation, however this time it was in front of 200 spectators and a panel of 12 judges. Again we were made to wait before discovering our fate. Unfortunately, we did not win the competition, but it was great just to take part and experience the whole week.
I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone with an interest in science to go on Mission Discovery Space Camp, not only do you learn lots of interesting things and have access to some of the top scientists, but you also meet lots of like-minded people and make some potentially lifelong friendships.