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Botany graduate student wins top honors in national poster contest

11/11/2011

Christina Johnson
Christina Johnson, a graduate student in botany, won first place in the Student Poster Competition at the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (ASGSB) held Nov. 2-6 in San Jose, Calif.

She tied for first place with her presentation in the category of plant biology for her poster, “An endogenous growth pattern of roots is revealed in seedlings grown in microgravity.”

Johnson, who is advised by John Kiss, professor and chair of botany, explained that her research results were based on a spaceflight project conducted on space shuttle mission STS-131 in April 2010. To better understand the development of plants grown in microgravity, or little to no gravity, they used specialized flight hardware known as Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) - Petri Dish Fixation Unit.

“We were able to grow Arabidopsis plants from seed for 14 days,” Johnson said. “Before landing, the seedlings were fixed in-flight by an astronaut. We learned from this experiment that the BRIC flight hardware can be used successfully to grow, and that plants exhibited a skewing growth pattern that is masked on Earth by gravity.”

Judges commented that her poster was the most visual appealing. Johnson said the award has given her extra motivation to continue her work, which will look at microgravity effects on gene regulation with existing tissue from the flight experiment and other studies.

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