One Iowa State University Student (ISU) is trying to prove that growing food on Mars is not a far-fetched as it might seem. Raegan Hoefler, a junior in genetics, is conducting a study to see how radiation in space affects corn’s DNA. Hoefler received $7,000 dollars from the Iowa Space Grant Consortium to make her research a possibility. Of the total, $2,000 was for a research grant to conduct the experiment, and the remaining $5,000 was awarded to Hoefler as a scholarship. To receive the scholarship, she had to be willing to participate in NASA-related STEM research projects. Her project exposes young corn seedlings to ultraviolet radiation using germicidal lamps in the lab and X-rays from linear accelerators used for radiation treatment for cancer patients at the Mary Greeley Medical Center. “When people think of NASA, I don’t think growing food to possibly sustain life on Mars necessarily comes to mind,” Hoefler says. “It also is interesting that our own ozone is depleting, so earth may one day become more Martian in the future. We’ll all have to eat, so we’re seeing if this plant growth under these conditions is possible.” The project is ongoing, and Hoefler is hoping to publish her findings and present them at undergraduate seminars.
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