• ‘Genes in Space’ winner announced at Global Space Congress

    • First place awarded to Alia Almansoori from Al Mawakeb School Al Barsha in Dubai
    • Winner will see her experiment tested on the International Space Station

    Abu Dhabi, UAE,  February 1, 2017 - The winner of the UAE’s Genes in Space competition was announced today at the Global Space Congress. 14-year-old Alia Almansoori, who attends Al Mawakeb School Al Barsha in Dubai, was announced winner after presenting her proposed experiment to a panel of judges. As the winner, Almansoori will travel to the US to watch her experiment launch to the International Space Station (ISS) where it will be conducted by astronauts on board.

    A partnership of the UAE Space Agency, The National and Boeing, the Genes in Space winning experiment aims to study protein expression changes that might help protect astronauts from unwanted cell death.

    Alia Almansoori expressed her joy at winning the award, which strengthened her feelings of being one step closer to Mars. Almansoori said: “I have always been interested in the field of space, through reading a number of space encyclopaedias and stories such as Star Wars. This award has encouraged me to study sciences in order to achieve my dream and enter the space sector.”

    Almansoori went on to thank all those involved in the program and the support that has been provided to children and the upcoming generation by stakeholders. This has developed capacities in a number of fields and broadened their scientific imagination and desires to build their futures.

    Rashid Murooshid, Editor-in-Chief at The National, said: “On behalf of The National, I’m very pleased to congratulate Alia on her incredible achievement today and the exciting future that lies ahead. We are incredibly proud to have supported such a rewarding competition, particularly since this is the first edition of Genes in Space to take place outside the United States. The support offered by The National is a reflection of our deep commitment to education, and forms part of our contribution to transitioning the UAE towards a knowledge-based economy.”

    Each of the five finalist teams had a science mentor from either Harvard University or Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as well as a locally based advisor co-ordinated by Khalifa University, who helped their assigned teams prepare for their final presentations to the judging panel. The five finalists were announced during a gala dinner held by The National newspaper on November 20, 2016.

    Genes in Space encourages students in grades 7 through 12 to propose DNA experiments that contribute to solving real-life space exploration problems. The internationally renowned competition seeks to encourage young students to further engage with science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

    HE Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General at the UAE Space Agency, said: “The Genes in Space competition is a perfect example of our educational initiatives to engage youth and encourage their participation in space sciences. This is an important aspect of our strategies to develop national capacities, raise awareness about space and nurture the upcoming generation. As the first competition of its kind in the region, it is also a representation of the UAE’s growing international recognition and status in the space sector.”“Generating excitement for science, technology, engineering and math in this generation will be the key to unlocking our global future in space,” Mark Mulqueen, Boeing ISS program manager. “I’m impressed with the group of young talent that participated in the Genes in Space competition. Students like these will be making ground-breaking discoveries that will allow humans to explore the universe further than ever before.”

    The other finalists were:

    • Karun Isaac (14), from Gems Modern Academy in Dubai, aims to protect astronauts from cognitive decline by studying space-induced changes in brain gene expression.
    • Haneefah Badar (14), from Brighton College in Abu Dhabi, seeks new avenues to prevent bone loss during deep space missions, with potential implications for osteoporosis in space and on Earth.
    • Zack Rahaman (13) and Nikhil Potula (13), from Brighton College Al Ain, will explore the potential for bioengineered proteins from tardigrades (microscopic aquatic animals that can thrive in space) to protect human genomes.
    • Wilson Huijsmans (14), Matteo Sottocornola (15), and Akio Shirali (13) from Cranleigh Abu Dhabi seek to enhance the production of genetically engineered proteins and peptides in space, which may ultimately facilitate the production of medicines in space.