How Did You Spend Your Summer? Two Buckeyes Learned from NASA Scientists

August 25, 2009

Editor: High-res photos of Kamotani and Cooperstone are available. Contact Martha Filipic at filipic.3@cfaes.osu.edu.

HOUSTON, Texas -- Two Buckeyes -- one a recent graduate, another entering a master's program this fall -- joined forces with NASA scientists this summer through a National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) internship program.

Setsuko Kamotani, who received her master's degree in food science and technology in June, and Jessica Cooperstone, who will enter the same program this fall, are two of just 18 interns in the program this year. Both worked with scientists in the Space Food Systems Laboratory at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston.

Kamotani worked with scientists on a project to develop a new nutritional food bar for astronauts. Cooperstone, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in food science from Cornell University in May, worked on both that project and on one that studied the effects of low-dose radiation on nutritional quality, taste and smell of food during missions to the moon and Mars.

"This internship is an opportunity to learn and work in an area that is unique to the food science field," Kamotani said earlier this summer. "I am expanding my professional network and meeting people from different areas of research. The seminars organized for the interns are great because I get to learn about other areas of space research directly from the experts in their respective fields."

Cooperstone said the internship will help with her future endeavors in the food industry.

"Designing food for retail or consumer use is one thing, but designing food for space has a whole different series of guidelines that must be met," she said. "The internship has taught me valuable problem-solving skills and has given me experience in designing food for an entirely different group. I hope to bring some of my experience in the food industry to NASA, while taking what I have learned at JSC to provide innovative solutions for the food industry."

Denise Smith, chair of Ohio State's Department of Food Science and Technology, said she is proud that the two students were selected to participate in such a competitive program.

"The NASA internship is providing them with a unique and invaluable educational experience," Smith said. "Jessica and Setsuko are looking at food in a whole new way."

Kamotani graduated from Solon (Ohio) High School and received bachelor's degrees in nutrition and psychology from Case Western Reserve University. She is the daughter of Yasuhiro and Fumi Kamotani of Solon.

Cooperstone, from Westbury, N.Y., is the daughter of Lester and Salpi Cooperstone. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in food science from Cornell University in May.

NSBRI's summer internship program gives selected students an opportunity to spend 10 to 15 weeks working on projects with scientists at JSC or NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. With the addition of this year's class, more than 100 students have now participated in this highly competitive program.

"The summer internship program allows talented students such as Setsuko and Jessica to learn about research for human spaceflight and how these efforts benefit health care on Earth," said Jeffrey Sutton, NSBRI director.

The Department of Food Science and Technology is part of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

NSBRI, funded by NASA, is a consortium of institutions studying the health risks related to long-duration spaceflight. The institute’s science, technology and education projects take place at more than 60 institutions across the United States, including Ohio State, where Rongxing (Ron) Li, director of Mapping and GIS Laboratory in the College of Engineering, is leading a project to develop the Lunar Astronaut Spatial Orientation and Information System. The system uses a coordinated system of sensors to enhance spatial orientation and reduce risks for astronauts during lunar mission operations.

NSBRI projects address space health concerns, which include bone and muscle loss, cardiovascular changes, radiation exposure, neurobehavioral and psychosocial factors, remote medical care and research capabilities, and habitability and performance issues such as sleep cycles and lunar dust exposure. Research findings also impact the understanding and treatment of similar medical conditions experienced on Earth.

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Author(s): 
Roy Bradford Thomas
Source(s): 
Denise Smith