Making the dream of working for NASA a reality at ASU

February 12, 2018

For many STEMscience, technology, engineering and math students, working for NASA is a lifelong dream. For Arizona State University's NASA Space Grant Scholars, that dream is already a reality.

Since 1988, ASU has participated in the national NASA Space Grant Program, designed to provide STEM undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to actively work on NASA-related research alongside a faculty mentor. Kaylee Klapmeyer, ASU NASA Space Grant Alumna at the poster session at the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Kaylee Klapmeyer, ASU NASA Space Grant alumna, presents her poster at the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Download Full Image

Up to 50 ASU students are selected each year for this prestigious program. Each scholar conducts a year-long research program and presents the results of their research in NASA-related fields ranging from small satellites to astrobiology.

“Being a NASA Space Grant Scholar provides an opportunity for undergraduates to work on real projects and gain real-world experience while they are at ASU,” said Tom Sharp, professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and director of ASU’s NASA Space Grant program.

How to apply

Students interested in applying to the ASU NASA Space Grant program for the 2018–19 school year may submit an application on the NASA Space Grant website. The deadline for applications is May 8. The program accepts up to 50 students per year.

“Our scholars work with a faculty mentor throughout their internships. This gives them opportunities, references, and a distinct advantage when applying for graduate school or for positions in professional STEM fields,” Sharp said.  

NASA Space Grant Scholars poster session

The current ASU NASA Space Grant Scholars will be showcasing their research projects at the annual NASA Space Grant Poster Session from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14 in the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV on the ASU Tempe Campus. This free event is open to the public. 

“The event gives the public the opportunity to see a range of projects that our students do in science and engineering,” Sharp said. “Each scholar is required to lead a project with a reportable outcome and this is their first chance to pull it together and present their findings.”

More than 40 students will be presenting works to the public on research projects involving CubeSats, exoplanets, hybrid rockets and other projects that span engineering and science fields. 

“For ASU students interested in becoming a NASA Space Grant Scholar, February’s poster session is a great opportunity to meet with current scholars and find out how to apply for the program,” said Desiree Crawl, senior coordinator for the program. 

The poster session will also prepare the scholars for their next hurdle, presenting their projects at the Arizona NASA Space Grant Undergraduate Research Internship Symposium in Tucson on April 14. They will be joined by students from UofA and NAU, who also participate in the NASA Space Grant Program. Since ASU is already known for its innovation ranking, these students are sure to represent their fields, and the university, with flying colors in this statewide event.

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration


TV documentary spotlights ASU researchers’ findings on autism-related gastrointestinal problems

February 12, 2018

A recently broadcast multipart Korean television documentary that explores new treatments for people with autism and gastrointestinal problems includes reports on research led by three Arizona State University faculty members.

James Adams, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown and Dae-Wook Kang collaborated on the research projects whose results are featured in the documentary. The Korean documentary “Microbiome Human” includes an extensive segment that chronicles the case of a young boy with autism who had struggled with severe diarrhea from infancy. He received microbiota transplant therapy as part of a clinical trial led by ASU researchers. After treatment, the boy experienced a dramatic drop in symptoms of gastrointestinal disorder and a reduction of autism symptoms. Video image from the documentary “Microbiome Human” Download Full Image

Together they co-authored the study “Treating gastrointestinal disorders in children with autism using microbiota transplant therapy,” which drew the attention of the producers of the science educational documentary for the Educational Broadcasting System, one of the major television networks in South Korea, similar to the Public Broadcasting System in the United States.

The research journal Microbiome published a paper about the therapy co-authored by Adams, Krajmalnik-Brown and Kang along with several colleagues.

The World Health Organization estimates 1 in 160 children have autism spectrum disorder, which is characterized by some degree of impaired social behavior, communication and language. Symptoms begin in childhood and can persist through adolescence and adulthood.

Strikingly, many children and adults with autism have chronic gastrointestinal problems, and it was this aspect that the ASU team wanted to better understand. Adams found that the severity of these problems correlated with the severity of autism.

A follow-up study led by Krajmalnik-Brown and Kang and published in 2013 revealed that children with autism had about 25 percent fewer species of bacteria in their gut compared to healthy controls.

The lower diversity of gut bacteria is generally associated with worse gut problems. So, the team led a phase-one clinical trial of 18 children with autism, treating them with microbiota transplant therapy.

The therapy involves first using an antibiotic to kill pathogenic bacteria, then a bowel cleanse to remove remaining bacteria and the antibiotic, and then seven to eight weeks of full-spectrum microbiota, using gut bacteria from people without autism spectrum disorder. 

By the end of treatment, there was an 80 percent reduction in symptoms of the gastrointestinal disorder and a 25 percent reduction in autism symptoms. The improvements remained when the researchers performed a follow-up exam eight weeks after treatment ended.

The Korean documentary, titled “Microbiome Human,” focuses on the role of the microbiome in the human body, and a segment in Part 1 of the series features a young boy with autism who had experienced severe diarrhea since infancy. After the microbiota transplant therapy, his gastrointestinal problems ceased and his autism symptoms were significantly less prominent, according to both an autism evaluator and the boy’s mother.

Adams is a President’s Professor of materials science and engineering in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and leader of the Autism/Asperger’s Research Program at ASU. He teaches in the of Materials Science and Engineering program in the Fulton Schools’ School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy.

Krajmalnik-Brown is a Fulton Schools associate professor of environmental engineering who works in the Biodesign Institute’s Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology and the Center for Fundamental and Applied Microbiomics. She teaches in the Fulton Schools’ School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.

Kang is an assistant research scientist in both the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology and the Center for Fundamental and Applied Microbiomics.

The introduction to the documentary features Krajmalnik-Brown. Part 2 includes interviews with Adams and Krajmalnik-Brown. Part 3 includes a segment with Adams’ adult daughter, Kim, who has autism.

View the complete documentary on YouTube:


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The ASU team is starting to recruit for another microbiota treatment study, this one for adults with autism. For more information or to apply, click here.

Joseph Caspermeyer, managing editor for the ASU Biodesign Institute, contributed to this article

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering