2019 Space Crystal Prize

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Chemistry Department Molecular Structure Laboratory is proud to announce a collaborative project with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the sole manager of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory.

Up to three middle school students and three high school students will be selected among the contest laureates to participate in the 2019 WI Space Crystal Mission. These six students will be awarded an opportunity for their crystals to grow aboard the International Space Station U.S. National Lab through a partnership with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and their Space Station Explorers (SSE) education program.

Selection criteria

All top winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd place and Best Quality for both the HS and MS and all Art Contest winners) will be contacted with the announcement that they have won a prize in one of the categories (around May 15, 2019).

These winners will be given the option of applying for the 2019 WI Space Crystal Mission. The application process will require them to (a) sign the commitment form and (b) write a short essay by May 20, 2019 on a space crystallization-related topic. For example, “Why do you feel that it is important to conduct scientific research on the ISS”?  The 2019 topic will be communicated when the laureates have been determined.

Contest organizers will evaluate the essays and select up to six students to form three WI Space Crystal Teams (2 HS students, 2 MS students and 2 Art Team students).

The Space Crystal Team members will be announced at the Awards Ceremony.

The students will work with the Wisconsin Molecular Structure Laboratory and the CASIS SSE team to translate their optimum growth conditions into an experiment to be conducted on the ISS National Lab launching as early as SpaceX-16 in late 2019 or early 2020. The students will be challenged to adapt their growth conditions to the flight hardware, prepare their experiment for launch, and compare the resulting microgravity-grown crystals with crystals grown on Earth! In addition to the technical work, the Space Crystal Prize winner will be required to communicate their experiences through a blog, social media, and possibly the pre-launch press conference at Kennedy Space Center in Florida! Activities will be highlighted on the SSE website as well. Finally, after results are collected, the Space Crystal Prize winner will publish a short report in the CASIS Upward quarterly magazine.

Microgravity presents a unique environment to grow crystals – without gravity, buoyancy-driven convection and sedimentation are eliminated. Under these unique conditions, crystal growth is controlled entirely by diffusion, resulting in larger, more ordered crystals that have fewer impurities than crystals grown on Earth. Crystal growth on the ISS National Lab is used for development of new materials and also for crystallizing proteins for discovery of new drugs. Pharmaceutical companies Merck and Eli Lilly & Co. along with groups like the Michael J. Fox Foundation are working on crystallizing critical proteins to advance their research. More in-depth information on microgravity crystallization can be found on these two research portals hosted by CASIS – SpaceStationResearch.com and Macromolecular Crystal Growth (MMCG) Program.

Ilia Guzei, University of Wisconsin Crystal Growing Contest Lead, iguzei@chem.wisc.edu
Stephanie Twesme, Project Coordinator
Diane Matthews, Space Crystal Lead Educator, dmatthews@iss-casis.org

UPDATES on the 2018 WI Space Crystal Mission

Blog by the student Art Team

UPDATES on 2017 WI Space Crystal Mission in the news

March 26, 2018: Local WKOW station reports on the Space Crystal Project in a 90 sec video.
March 21, 2018: U.S. National Laboratory Research Geared for SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services Mission to the Space Station.
March 21, 2018: Wisconsin Crystal Growing Contest-Wisconsin Space Crystal Mission (CASIS PCG 9).