As of 9:59 a.m. on Saturday, November 2, Cary-Grove High School sophomore, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Fournier’s winning experiment was launched into space. After winning the Higher Orbits: Go for Launch! national competition, Fournier’s experiment, which she developed with four other students, is now being tested by astronauts on the International Space Station.
Members of team “Reginae Reginarum”, translated to “Queen of Queens” in Latin, will be able to access information, data and pictures over the next several weeks to monitor their experiment's progress in space.
“We plan to follow up and analyze the data. We would like to stay involved with researching this to the best of our abilities,” said Fournier.
After attending the District 155 Girls in Engineering, Math and Science (GEMS) Conference in 2017 and 2018, Fournier was contacted by the Go for Launch! program and participated at the Scot Forge event in Spring Grove, IL during the summer of 2018.
There she worked with four other female teammates to develop an experiment that was launched into space in November of this year. Fournier was invited to attend the launch at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.
The goal of Fournier’s experiment is to test the astaxanthin production of Haematococcus Pluvialis algae in microgravity. Astaxanthin is an anti-inflammatory substance that is used in multiple medications to treat Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, high cholesterol and other common conditions. Fournier and her group want to see if this specific strain of algae will produce more astaxanthin in space and if it is more potent.
“The idea was inspired by wanting to help people,” said Fournier. “From there we decided that we wanted to find something that has the potential to improve medications for common diseases. That is when we came across this mind-blowing algae.”
Fournier hopes other girls interested in STEM will take advantage of all the opportunities available to them. She plans to continue her involvement with District 155’s GEMS program as a volunteer for as long as she can. Her goal is to spread information about her experiment and encourage other girls in STEM.
“I would say to consider yourself very lucky to be interested in this field and, if you love it, continue in it. And lastly, never doubt yourself or your abilities and never place limits on yourself and what you can accomplish,” said Fournier.
Two other Cary-Grove students have won the 2019 Go For Launch! American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Apollo Series competition since Fournier’s win in 2018.
Sophomores Daniel Marek and Jake Drews were a part of the winning team “Flammenwerfer Axolotl” who developed an experiment to test how cabbage moth larva makes a chrysalis in microgravity. The team hopes their findings will reveal how these moths could impact farming in space.
Drews and Marek’s experiment is set to launch to the International Space Station in 2020.