State College

Stellar opportunity for State High student who is a finalist in Genes in Space contest

Alyssa Huff
Alyssa Huff

Some scientists dream of having their work performed in space, or work a lifetime to have that dream come to fruition.

State College Area High School student Alyssa Huff could get the OK for it before she graduates.

It is all part of the inaugural Genes in Space competition, sponsored by Boeing, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Math for America and miniPCR that encouraged students in seventh to 12th grades to design an experiment to solve space exploration problems through DNA analysis.

The winning experiment will be performed on the International Space Station, and will be one of the first DNA amplification experiments conducted outside Earth, said Heidi Eggert, spokeswoman for the competition.

According to a report about the competition, Huff, 16, of State College, wants to use a type of DNA-amplification method on the International Space Station to develop a detection method for extraterrestrial life by testing natural and unnatural genetic material in space.

Of 330 applicants, eight students on five teams were named finalists including students from Bedford, N.Y.; Braintree, Mass.; Houston; and Sammamish, Wash.

The five finalist teams will be mentored by scientists from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The teams then will present their proposals next month to a panel of scientists, educators and technologists at the ISS Research and Development Conference in Boston.

The winner will be announced at the end of the conference.