Distinguished Student Work



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An abundance of waste methane gas is produced on the International Space Station (ISS) as a result of the Sabatier Reaction, a part of the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS). In order to manage this organic waste, this experiment seeks to understand how microgravity impacts the methane-oxidizing metabolism of methanotrophic bacteria, namely Methylorubrum podarium. As methanotrophs have never been studied in space, this investigation may unlock a novel understanding of their behavior in microgravity, leading to promising future applications such as improved life support systems in deep space. In this experiment, cameras will capture snapshots of the bacterial cultures, and a software will compute the growth rate as an indirect indicator of their metabolic rate. Uncovering M. podarium function in microgravity will be a key step toward understanding future applications of methanotrophic bacteria in space.

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Environmental Sciences | Other Physics | Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Sustainability


Stella Ristic’s ‘25 Project Methanotroph was recently launched to the International Space Station. Stella’s team, Team Laika, worked over the summer at Kennedy Space Center to develop a research project that would be on the ISS for 30 days. Her team's winning project includes researching and investigating the metabolism of methane-consuming bacteria in microgravity for possible sustainable applications of methane waste on the ISS. She had the opportunity to witness the launch of SpaceX’s CRS-27 from NASA’s property with her team.

Continuing her work with Higher Orbits, Stella will attend the International Science School in Sydney, Australia this summer. She was selected as one of the only five US students. The program is held at the University of Sydney, physics department. The experience will include touring cutting-edge research facilities, inspiring talks from world-renowned scientists, and workshops.

Investigating the impacts of microgravity on methanotrophic bacteria metabolism for methane gas oxidation



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