News & Awards

Dynamac Scientist Sends Experiment on the Space Shuttle

July 2006

Dr. Michael Roberts, Dynamac’s principal scientist for the Molecular Microbial Ecology Laboratory at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, has conceived, designed, built, and with the assistance of other Dynamac, NASA, and Bionetics staff, will conduct an experiment, which is currently aboard the Space Shuttle that launched on July 4, 2006.

Dr. Roberts’ experiment is called POEMS (Passive Observatories for Experimental Microbial Systems) and is a biological payload. The significant aims of the POEMS spaceflight experiment are two-fold and will: (1) describe the multi-generation growth and evolution of a model bacterium, Bacillus subtilis, in the space environment; and (2) demonstrate a passive cultivation environment for biological research and technology development in the spaceflight environment to support NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission. The POEMS mission will quantify the effects of microgravity on rates of cell growth and division, and homologous recombination by transformation and mutation repair, in bacterial cells cultivated in the space environment for comparison to cells cultivated in ground controls.

Dr. Roberts’ research interests focus on the ecology of microbial populations among the diverse ecosystems of Kennedy Space Center. His areas of interest range from the salt marshes of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge to the “space trash” returned from shuttle and International Space Station missions. He has worked on both the bioreactors and biomass production systems being developed by Dynamac for NASA Advanced Life Support bio/regenerative research programs. Dr. Roberts holds a Ph.D. in Population Biology and has been a member of Dynamac’s Life Science Services Contract since 1999.