During the summer, Alice Maciver a pupil of Hawthorn High School joined around 30 other pupils from RCT to attend a five day course in King’s College London called ‘Mission Discovery’. On arrival Alice was assigned to a team to formulate an idea for a biomedical experiment that could be carried out in space. As a group, they then had to present their idea and compete with 28 other mission discovery teams to try to produce the best proposal. The group consisted of 3 other pupils who also travelled up from RCT, Juliet Johns and Katie Crook from Y Pant Comprehensive School and Abo Alquassium Mohamad.
The group decided to focus on Alzheimer’s. Their final experiment was to see how amyloid proteins (the proteins that cluster together stopping nerve cells in the brain communicating, resulting in Alzheimer’s) aggregate in space compared to on Earth.
During their time at King’s College the group met a range of inspirational people such as Michelle Ham, a Senior Astronaut Trainer at NASA, Mike Foale, a British Astronaut, and a variety of different Scientists and Professors. They received a number of lectures from an array of people from all around the world such as Professors: Steve Harridge, Thais Russomano, David Green and Dr Julie Keeble and not to forget a skype interview with Jay Honeycutt who is a former Director of NASA.
On the final day all the hard work had to be put to test when the groups were put into heats to perform their presentations. One group from each heat was then put into the final. Juliet said, “After presenting our experiment, they announced our group was through and we were so happy, but then we realised we would now have to present in front of 160 people.”
Alice described the experience of the final presentation as “The most nerve wracking thing I’ve ever had to do. However, the experience helped increase my confidence and my ability to talk in front of a crowd” While waiting for the judges to come to a decision, there was a lecture from Dr Julie Keeble who works at King’s College. “The judges came back and announced that we had come second. We were completely over the moon and couldn’t believe it, we were one of the youngest teams competing against 28 other teams in total, all with brilliant ideas” “When we received our certificates we were a bit disappointed how we were so close to first place as the judges said it was ‘a close call’. However, as we were walking off stage astronaut Mike Foale announced that our experiment would also go into space as they had decided to send two.”
After the awards the group spoke to Dr Keeble, who then invited them to go back to King’s College to do further research.
“We’d like to thank all the people that worked with us, our mentor, ISSET, our schools, King’s College and everyone else who helped make our experience at Mission Discovery inspirational and unforgettable.