In areas of the country previously limited to scientific study on the ground, NASA is bringing new opportunities for research. Research…in space! If you are a doctoral student or post-doctoral fellow and you have a new concept for research in microgravity, now is the time to put your ideas on paper and compete for the chance to develop them into research on the International Space Station.
For young scientists who are just cutting their teeth on becoming investigators, this is a chance to use the one-of-a-kind orbiting laboratory for a study of their own design. They have the possibility to add to the existing body of scientific knowledge on Earth and contribute to the future of space exploration.
The open NASA research solicitation specifically targets NASA Experiment Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCOR) jurisdictions. These are typically colleges and universities in areas of the country that have not participated in aerospace or aerospace-related research activities at NASA. Any U.S. institution is welcome to apply, but EPSCOR jurisdictions will receive special consideration.
“EPSCOR is how we reach out to areas of the country with schools that have not been traditionally involved with NASA,” explained Camille Alleyne, Ed.D., space station assistant program scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “It gives schools in these particular jurisdictions a leg up ̶ schools that would otherwise not have access to research in space.”
One important goal of the NASA research solicitation is to recruit young researchers who have not previously considered conducting scientific investigations in space. This targeted approach encourages new investigators to consider how their studies on the ground may translate to, and perhaps benefit considerably from, the microgravity environment. This solicitation is open only to doctoral students or candidates and post-doctoral fellows who have never participated in space research and have no experience in designing proposals for study aboard the space station.
To that end, these potential new researchers targeted by NASA may wish to receive guidance from current and past scientists who have conducted studies aboard the space station. NASA will provide such guidance at workshops during the American Physiological Society Experimental Biology Symposium on April 30, the American Society of Microbiology General Meeting on May 18 and the annual American Astronautical Society International Space Station Research and Development Conference June 17 through 19.
Conducting new user workshops at two non-space-related technical society meetings like the American Physiological Society and the American Society of Microbiology allows NASA to target students and fellows from a variety of science disciplines. The workshops provide a better understanding of planned space station research capabilities. They also allow potential applicants to receive direction on developing a concept paper for one of the specific emphases outlined in the solicitation.
NASA will grant up to a total of 10 awards for concept papers developed and submitted in response to the open solicitation. In their papers, applicants should detail how microgravity will significantly enhance ground-based research. These concept papers also must include innovative ideas that may be studied in spaceflight and align with specific emphases in life and physical sciences. These research focus areas include microbiology, space physiology and physical sciences. For the physical sciences, stressed topics include combustion science, fluid physics, material science and complex fluids.
Submissions are due July 10. Selections currently are scheduled for Aug. 30. Papers will be scored on criteria that include the significance of the study, the approach’s design and methods, innovation, the qualifications of the investigators and the appropriateness of the scientific environment.
Each chosen concept will have a monetary value of up to $4,000. The awardees selected will then have the opportunity to submit a full space station research flight proposal. One of the 10 full proposals submitted may be funded for flight to the space station.
For papers that are not selected, a second pathway exists for potential space station research through the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). Education and outreach opportunities on the space station also are provided through a public-private partnership enabled by Congress in which the U.S. portion of the space station was designated a national laboratory. This laboratory, managed by CASIS, provides scientific avenues for investigators and institutions.
“This NASA research announcement reaches out to a new and specific group of graduate students and fellows because we don’t know what else is out there in terms of innovative investigation ideas for the space station,” said Alleyne. “It is a deliberate effort to get people involved in space station science. With opportunities like these, we are growing the next generation of space researchers.”