Montague man takes aim at International Space Station project

·2 min read
Justin Pater
Justin Pater

A man from eastern P.E.I., currently on a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard, wants to put an experiment on board the International Space Station next year.

Justin Pater of Montague hopes to be named as a mentor on the Genes in Space project, an annual competition for high school students.

He is in talks with the program but mentor recruitment doesn't formally begin until early spring of 2021.

The competition is open to students from grades 7 to 12 from across the U.S. They're asked to design experiments that use DNA analysis to solve real-world problems in space exploration. The winning experiment is carried up to the International Space Station.

"Being a nerd myself, it's definitely a cool opportunity," said Pater.

"It's really a great opportunity for the high school students because it really gives them an opportunity to see the things they learn in a classroom can actually be applied to solve real, like applicable, problems."

The ideas come from the students in consultation with their teachers locally, who then pitch their ideas to one of the mentors appointed by the competition.

"We can throw the resources of Harvard at the problem and try to make that experiment possible," Pater said.

The competition organizers will narrow the field down to five finalists. The winning team will visit NASA to train astronauts on how to perform the experiment. The experiment itself will launch to the ISS late next summer.

Credit to Montague school

Pater said he is constantly on the lookout for opportunities such as this, and that may be because of his own high school experience.

"I wasn't really confident in an academic sense. In fact, I took an extra year to graduate high school," he said.

"It really wasn't until that year that I realized that I had the potential of becoming something, and what I'm doing now wouldn't be possible without the guidance of Mr. Philip MacDonald and Miss Margaret MacDonald … teachers at Montague Regional High School."

Pater credits the interest of those two teachers for getting him to Harvard — and, he hopes, into the Genes in Space competition next year.

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