Spring 2020 Issue
Mission 14 to Launch Student Experiment into Space
The closest Sophia Bradach had been to space was following NASA astronauts on Instagram, until this year, when the freshman Environmental Science major started designing an experiment that was selected to launch to the International Space Station in the fall.
Bradach, of Point Pleasant Borough, wants to know if snow peas can self-fertilize through nitrogen fixation in a microgravity environment. She is working with her mentor, Peter Straub, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, to find the answer.
A space garden can help astronauts grow their own food, but on the International Space Station, space is limited. Storing bags of fertilizer for extended space travel isn’t realistic.
Bradach, who enjoys gardening and astrophysics, is joining her interests into an experiment that will test nitrogen fixation, a natural fertilizing process, in microgravity using snow peas.
Peas, which have already been proven to grow in microgravity, have a symbiotic relationship with a soil bacteria. The bacteria, formally known as rhizobium leguminosarum, infects the root hairs of peas, grows in hair-like extensions from the roots, and then forms nodules. “The nodules communicate with the peas and when there isn’t enough nitrogen in the soil, it causes the bacteria to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere to help,” said Bradach.
The entire experiment fits into test tubes—one that will go to space and another that will stay on Earth. After the mission, nitrogen fixation will be measured in both scenarios and the rates will be compared.
Julie Coker Receives $100,000 from Justin Bieber
Stockton University senior Julie Coker of Union Beach in Monmouth County has the best autograph from Justin Bieber – his signature on the bottom of a giant $100,000 check, which he presented to her live on MTV on Feb. 7 to honor her work on mental health awareness with Active Minds.
“I’m still in shock,” Coker said as she prepared to staff the Active Minds table in front of the Stockton library on Feb. 10. “The check is in my room at home, but I still feel like it almost didn’t happen.”
Bieber was interested in helping someone involved with mental health. He and his team chose Coker for her work with Active Minds, a nonprofit supporting mental health awareness and education to young adults. Coker is president of the Stockton chapter and also serves on the national Active Minds Student Advisory Committee.
Project Taps Sweet New Resource on Campus
Bring on the pancakes!
A team of Stockton faculty members has been awarded a three-year United States Department of Agriculture grant to promote maple sugaring in the South Jersey region through research and community outreach.
The Stockton grant involves using modern technologies such as reverse osmosis and vacuum assist pumps to implement an extensive sapping system on Stockton’s 1,600-acre main campus. Initial sample tapping began in February on red maples, which have a lower sugar content than sugar maples, but are plentiful in South Jersey.
In addition, the grant is establishing a community outreach program of traditional sapping methods on individual properties in the South Jersey area.
The Stockton team brings together individuals with expertise in forestry, soil science, economics and biodiversity. The members are Stockton Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and lead investigator Aaron Stoler, Professor of Mathematics Judith Vogel, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Jessica Favorito, Instructor of Economics Mariam Majd and Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Matthew Olson.
Vogel's family farm was recently featured in the Courier Post for their sustainability work through syrup.