As Ohio Wesleyan botany and microbiology professor Chris Wolverton develops his research on plant gravity sensing, NASA waits to bring his proposal into space.
On Feb. 10, Wolverton’s research, which he spent “six to seven years” evolving and refining, was chosen by NASA to be funded and conducted on the International Space Station. The NASA program is tax-payer driven.
Wolverton was one of a handful of recipients of the grant but was one of only three recipients that conducted research on botany. According to Wolverton, “this particular grant will enable the hiring of more students to work as researchers in the Summer Science Research Program.”
Wolverton expressed that, “the NASA panel was excited to see this research included undergraduate students.”
Wolverton and the students will work to prepare and send samples into space. However, the date of flight is currently not determined. Wolverton said before sending the samples into space, they “need to make sure this experiment will be able to be conducted in space.” This is known as the definition phase.
“At OWU, we were able to use unique tools to conduct and confirm our research,” Wolverton said.
Junior botany major Allie France said she is extremely excited for Dr. Wolverton.
“He has been working tirelessly on the research and his hard work has finally paid off,” France said. “This really shows the dedication Ohio Wesleyan professors have to giving their students hands on real world application for the work and research being taught in the classroom.”
The NASA selection process includes two different stages.
“The first being with the submitting of the proposal and a two page summary of what the researcher intends to do,” said Wolverton.
This process is intended to narrow the search and find the more desirable research proposals.
The second stage includes the proposals that were submitted to the first stage and were selected. During this stage, a panel of 10-12 people evaluates each proposal.
“About two people will tear the science in the proposal apart looking for both the strengths and weaknesses and will review the proposal with the remainder of the panel,” he said.
Wolverton worked on this panel in the past. He was asked to step down when he began to consider submitting research. Wolverton did not hold a position on the panel in 2014.
Wolverton believes this accomplishment shows that professors at OWU are “dedicated to giving the best learning experience to their students. This also shows people that we are who we say we are and our university is truly one of a kind.”