Former Troy High School students Finsam Samson and Yujie Wang were selected to have their proposed DNA experiment transported to the International Space Station.

Former Troy High School students Finsam Samson and Yujie Wang were selected to have their proposed DNA experiment transported to the International Space Station.

Photo provided by the Troy School District


Genetics project of Troy High grads sent to the international space station

By: Mary Beth Almond | Troy Times | Published January 29, 2021

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TROY — A science experiment created by two former Troy High School students has been sent to the International Space Station with the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in November.

Now college students, Finsam Samson and Yujie Wang began their experiment, “Genes in Space 7,” while attending Troy High and graduating with the Class of 2019.

In May 2019, the former students became one of five national team finalists in the NASA Genes in Space competition. As part of the program, they received mentorship from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard scientists, attended Biology Space Camp, presented their research at a science conference, and were selected to have their proposed DNA experiment transported to the International Space Station with the SpaceX crew, which blasted off in November.

The students and their mentors gave the astronauts genetic material extracted from fruit flies with the goal of learning more about how spaceflight affects brain function.

“We established a method by which we can look at how long-term space flight can impact neural function,” Samson, now a sophomore at Stanford University, said in a statement.   

“It really feels like being part of something monumental,” Wang, who currently attends the University of California, Berkeley, added.

The students’ mentor, Matthew Smith, from Harvard University, said the experiment is a basic test of the protocol to see if it works on the International Space Station and if it is something the astronauts can carry out easily.

The accomplishment has made the Troy School District proud, according to Troy High AP biology teacher Rebecca Brewer.

As their AP biology teacher, Brewer said, she is “extremely proud” to see her former students’ dedication and innovativeness translate into winning the competition.

“I am certain this accomplishment is only the beginning and will send them on a trajectory to future successes in the sciences. They serve as role models to all my current members of Troy High’s Biology Competition Club that with creativity plus intellect plus tenacity, anything is possible,” she said in a statement.

The historic mission teaming SpaceX and NASA was part of the first official crew-rotation mission from America in nearly a decade. The mission, sending four astronauts to the International Space Station, successfully launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, and was broadcast live on several news outlets. After a trip of some 27.5 hours in orbit, the Crew-1 astronauts docked with the International Space Station Nov. 16 and began a six-month stay.

“We perform a wide variety of science ranging everywhere from biological to physical sciences, as well as earth and space sciences,” NASA ISS Deputy Chief Scientist Jennifer Buchli said in a statement

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