Permian High senior's science project bound for outer space

Permian High senior’s science project bound for outer space

On Tuesday, Nov. 26, SpaceX Falcon 9 blasted off to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. — and joining the astronauts on this mission is a science experiment being conducted by a Permian High School senior.

That’s right, Swetha Kesavan’s science project is literally out of this world.

Last year, Kesavan designed a science experiment to test the growth of a bacteria in microgravity. That experiment was among the winners of an international contest called the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), which is made possible locally via support from HEB, Chevron, Education Foundation of Odessa, and Kepler Aerospace.

This year’s program involved submissions from 23 communities in the U.S., Canada and the Ukraine. Winning projects from each of those communities will be tested by astronauts on the ISS.

A national panel of researchers, scientists and educators selected the winning projects, including Kesavan’s. Her experiment aims to test how a common bacteria fares while up in space. After astronauts carry out her experiment at the ISS, they will share their results with Kesavan, who will compare the to a control experiment that stayed on Earth, according to ECISD.

“I never actually thought something I’ve done would go to space before,” Kesavan said in a video by ECISD earlier this year, when her project was announced as a winner.

During the summer of 2021, Kesavan said she took a Biomedical Research Camp at University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB), which offered her an outlook on a field she’s interested in pursuing. According to ECISD, Kesavan is working with her teacher-facilitator, Gregorio Barajas-Mercado, and two faculty from the University of Texas Permian Basin Biology department, Paula Gutierrez and Joanna Hernandez, on her experiment proposal and research.

“Being selected gives me a chance to show other kids that this is a possibility for you, as well.”

“Being selected gives me a chance to show other kids that this is a possibility for you, as well,” Kesavan said. “You just have to take a stab, and reach for your goals, because anything can happen.”

Accompanying Kesavan’s experiment on this space flight are two mission patches designed by Celeste Ortega of EK Downing Elementary and Vivian Hernandez of Crockett Middle School. Some of the student winners were slated to travel to the Kennedy Space Center for the launch to participate in educational activities.

“Ector County ISD is excited for our student winners, and congratulates them for their hard work and their participation in SSEP,” the school district said in a statement.