Course Materials


Day 1 - Intro to Space Biology and Reading Scientific Papers

During this first class of the semester, students are asked during the first few minutes of class to respond to the following question in writing:

  • Why should we care about conducting research in space? What is the value of this research?

Then students work in small groups or pairs to discuss the following discussion prompts:

  • What are the main categories within space biology research?
    • Consider the two main variables (radiation and microgravity) within space. Which questions would you want to ask regarding the effect of these variables on biological processes?
  • What types of experiments could or are being performed within each research category that you came up with?
    • Keep in mind that research is conducted in different locations – space, high altitude, low earth orbit, parabolic flights, etc.

The instructor then introduces the interdisciplinary nature of space biology research and discusses some of the topics that are currently being researched, as well as the research goals for 2016-2025 outlined by NASA Space Biology.

The instructor then goes over the syllabus and learning objectives for the course.

The second hour of the first class focuses on how to read a scientific paper. Students spend a few minutes writing an answer to the following prompt:

  • What are your current strategies for reading a scientific research article (primary literature article)?

Students then work in small groups to come to a consensus on the best approach to read a scientific paper. These ideas are shared with the entire class.

The instructor then distributes copies of the article, "Perceptions of scientific research literature and strategies for reading papers depend on academic career stage" to students. Students are asked to look at the methods and results in the article. The instructor can assign a particular figure or table to each group of students and they are asked to then present the information in that figure/table to the class.

Class discussion focuses on how to best read a scientific paper. It is helpful for students to understand that the difficulties they may currently be encountering while reading scientific papers are appropriate for their education level. This class will help them gain additional practice reading and interpreting scientific literature.

The instructor can choose to assign further reading of the scientific article, such as the discussion section, and a reflection prompt on the reading.

The final hour of the class session is dedicated to lab work. Students are introduced to gravitropism assays, the flashlapse device, and asked to gather all of the parts they will need for assembly of the flashlapse device into a plastic bin.

Related resource: How to (seriously) read a scientific paper

Powerpoint slides for Day 1:

Day 1 Slides.pptx

Day 2 - History of Space Biology

Homework and readings assigned for this class:

Assignment for Day 2.docx
NASA_life_into_space_1965 to 1998 excerpts.pdf
ISS Research in 2017 and beyond excerpts.pdf
ISS Benefits for Humanity excerpts.pdf

Powerpoint slides for Day 2:

Day 2 Slides - History of Space Biology.pptx

Day 3 - Spaceflight Opportunities and Engineering

Guest Lecture by Dr. Kevin Crosby, Carthage College

Powerpoint slides for Day 3:

spaceflight opportunities.pdf

Day 4 - Astrobotany

Guest Lecture by Dr. Simon Gilroy and Dr. Richard Barker, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Homework and readings assigned for this class:

Assignment for Space Biology – Week 3 Day 1.docx
Life in Space Isnt Easy Even If Youre Green.pdf
Touch modulates gravity sensing to regulate the growth ofprimary roots of Arabidopsis thaliana.pdf

Powerpoint slides for Day 4:

Barker et al, Plant Methods Figures_v2.pdf
Barker et al_Plant Methods 2016.pdf

Day 5 - Cell Biology: Cancer in Space

Assigned reading for this class: Microgravity culture reduces apoptosis and increases the differentiation of a human colorectal carcinoma cell line.

Homework for this class:

Article Questions - Cell Biology.docx

Powerpoint slides for Day 5:

Article Questions - Cell Biology.pptx

Day 6 and 7 - Skeletal Muscle Alterations and Neuromuscular Development

Guest Lecture by Dr. Danny Riley, Medical College of Wisconsin

Homework and readings assigned for this class:

Muscle reading.pdf
Muscle Review Worksheet – Space Biology – Day 6.docx

Powerpoint slides for Day 6 - Review of Muscle Structure and Contraction:

Muscle Review – Space Biology – Day 6.pptx

Readings assigned for Day 7 - Guest Lecture with Dr. Danny Riley on Neuromuscular Junctions and Neurolab:

Riley - Prolonged space flight-induced alterations in the structure and function of human skeletal muscle fibres.pdf
Buckey and Homick neurolab Riley studies.pdf

Day 8 - Effect of Spaceflight on Humans: Immune Response

Homework and readings assigned for this class:

Changes in Mouse Thymus and Spleen after Return from the STS-135 Mission in Space.PDF
Worksheet - Day 8 - Immune System.docx

Powerpoint slides for Day 8:

Day 8 Slides - Immune Response in Space.pptx

Days 9 and 10 - Effect of Spaceflight on Humans - Circadian Rhythms

Guest Lecture by Dr. Martha H. Vitaterna, Northwestern University

Homework and readings assigned for this class (Day 9):

Worksheet – Day 9 – Circadian misalignment affects sleep.docx
Circadian misalignment affects sleep and medication use before and during spaceflight.pdf

Powerpoint slides for this class:

Day 9 Slides - Circadian Rhythm.pptx

Readings assigned for Day 10 - guest lecture with Dr. Martha H. Vitaterna on Circadian Rhythms and the Microbiome:

Day 10 Article - Circadian Disorganization Alters Intestinal Microbiota.PDF

Day 11 - Animal Research in Space - Bone Loss

Homework and readings assigned for this class:

Day 11 – Learning Goals.docx
Day 11 Worksheet - Fish and Bone Loss in Simulated uG.docx
Effects of microgravity simulation on zebrafish transcriptomes and bone physiology—exposure starting at 5 days post fertilization.pdf

Powerpoint slides for this class:

Day 11 Slides - Animal Research - Bone Loss.pptx

Day 12 - Microbiology Research and Bioinformatics

Guest Lecture by Dr. Camilla Urbaniak, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Homework and readings assigned for this class:

Assignment Day 12 - Camilla Urbaniak.docx
Detection of antimicrobial resistance genes associated with the International Space Station environmental surfaces.pdf
The Potential Influence of the Microbiota and Probiotics on Women during Long Spaceflights.pdf

Day 13 - Microbiology and Planetary Protection Research

Guest Lecture by Dr. Kasthuri Venkateswaran, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Readings assigned for this class:

BMC ISS Dust Microbiome.pdf
BMC ISS HEPA metagenome.pdf
mSystems ISS Bacillus.pdf

Days 14 - Space Applications: 3D Printing

Homework and readings assigned for this class:

Day 14 Worksheet – 3D Printing.docx
The Effects of Microgravity on Extrusion Based Additive Manufacturing .pdf

Powerpoint slides for this class:

Day 14 Slides - 3D Printing.pptx

Day 15 - Space Applications: Crystallization and Organ Growth

Homework and readings assigned for this class:

Day 15 Worksheet - Organ Growth and Crystallization.docx
Guide to Understanding X-Ray crystallography.pdf
npjmgrav201510 - protein crystallization review article.pdf

Powerpoint slides for this class:

Day 15 Slides - Crystallization and Organ Growth.pptx

Day 16 - Effects of Microgravity on Yeast

Homework and readings assigned for this class:

Day 16 - Yeast Microgravity Worksheet.docx
Yeast Microgravity Study.pdf

Powerpoint slides for this class:

Day 16 Slides - Yeast and Microgravity.pptx

Days 17 through 22 - Student Presentations

Students were instructed to work in groups of 2 to lead the class through discussion of an article of their choice. Students were provided with a list of recently published NASA articles as a starting point (see NASA space biology publications 2010-2016 and 2017-2018 below). They also had the option of finding a different article through or another database.

Presentation Instructions:

Primary Literature Presentation Instructions.pdf
Space Biology Bibliography_2010-2016.docx
Space Biology Publications_2017-2018.docx