AstroWira

Space Sciences in Guatemala

Space science started as a dream for me, in my freshman year of college. I decided to start with this field in 2017 and since that year, I have worked hard to earn a place in the space area, not only in Guatemala, but also internationally. Read on to find out how you can get involved too.

AstroWira

My interest in space science started with physics. In 2016, when I entered the University, physics opened my eyes to the study of celestial bodies, their composition, their behavior and how to better understand them. I enrolled in an Astronomy course and from there, I began to look for points of convergence between my passion for biology and my passion for space.

I started with space research in 2017, with a project for a University course. In this project, I explored the feasibility of using oregano oleate as an antifungal against Candida albicans under simulated microgravity1 conditions. For this project, it was necessary to design and start off the first handmade prototype of a clinostat2 in order to simulate the necessary conditions. This first prototype helped to create more projects and workshops related to Space Biology and Microbiology, thus improving the availability of research in the area, in Guatemala. In 2019 I traveled to Colorado, Boulder, to be part of two projects funded by NASA: Space Biofilms and Simulated Micro-, Lunar and Martian microbial research.

Small works and workshops in space sciences have been carried out in a dispersed way by different organizations and entities in the country. However, finally, in the year 2021, I co-founded the Guatemalan Association of Engineering and Space Sciences (AGICE). With the creation of this association, we seek to become the leading Guatemalan entity for the development of biological, physical and technological sciences with a spatial approach, providing training and dissemination tools necessary for the community of leaders, professionals and students interested in the subject.

Step by step, I want to get more doors open so more Guatemalans, children and adults, know that the sky is no longer the limit for Guatemala and that it is possible for us to work on projects such as the launch of the first Guatemalan satellite “Quetzal-1” or other projects like the development of biological methods or innovative technologies, for the creation of environments of interest for space research.

1Microgravity: The concept of gravity 0 is wrong since gravity is not 0, being in space. Reduced gravity is experienced, better known as microgravity.

2Clinostat: It is a device used in space experiments to simulate the situation of constant free fall that is experienced in Earth’s orbit.


Professional Space Experience


Investigation

2021 – Present | MUSA Project, Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC)

Part of the Bioinformatics team of the MUSA project, a work that seeks to carry out a biological control study under microgravity and radiation conditions on the fungus that causes the banana fusarium disease.

2021 | International Astronautical Congress, International Astronautical Federation

Emerging Space Leader 2021, presenting “Development and Verification of a Low-Budget Clinostat built by Undergraduate Students in a Developing Country”.

2021 – Present | Guatemalan Association of Engineering and Space Sciences (AGICE)

Co-founder and President of AGICE, an Association that seeks to be a leader in promoting the Sciences and Engineering of Guatemala, in the space area.

2019 – Present | BioServe Space Technologies

Part of the “Space Biofilmsproject. In charge of the analysis of morphological changes of planktonic cells of Pseudomonas aeruginosas cultured in the International Space Station.

2019 | Bioserve Space Technologies

Part of the project “Simulated Micro-, Lunar and Martian Gravity microbial research“. In charge of studying the growth and reproduction behavior of the Candida albicans fungus in these three simulated gravitational conditions.

2018 | University of the Valley of Guatemala

Research: “The effects of carbenicillin and streptomycin in Klebsiella pneumonie on the development of antimicrobial resistance and biofilm production in simulated microgravity” as part of a Space Biology and Microbiology Workshop, developed thanks to USAID.

2018 | University of Colorado Boulder, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and University of Arizona

Part of the “Aknowledgements” for assisting with cell and culture media parameters for the investigation: “Determining an Appropriate Rotation Rate of the Clinostat” for the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Space and Gravitational Research (ASGSR).

2017 | University of the Valley of Guatemala

Research: “Viability of using origanum oleate for the inhibition of Candida albicans in simulated Microgravity“, as part of the Molecular Biology Techniques course.


Scientific Communication

2021 – Present | Communicating Topics in Earth and Space Science at the Young Scientist Program, Blue Marble Space Institute of Science (BMSIS)

Developing a project to communicate a topic in Earth and space science through writing, artistic media, music, video, social media campaigning, or another outlet that is most fitting.

2021 – Present | Space Generation Advisory Council

National Point of Contact (NPoC) for Guatemala. Volunteering. Point of contact between SGAC and the people of the country, forming a local team coordinating activities with SGAC at the national (or international) level.

2020 – Present | Co-founder of the group of Scientific Communication Gt

A group focused on scientific divulgation and facilitating tools to communicate the science we do.

2021 and 2020 | International Women Day for Women TechMakers

Event organized by Women Techmakers and the Galileo University, with the support of Agexport, Women Who Code Guatemala and others. I gave a talk on “Women in space history and the contribution of Guatemala“.

2020 and 2019 | Celebration of American Week at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala

Conference: “Kat’s journey to space (simulated)” (2020) and “Guatemala in Space Sciences” (2019).

2019 | 50th anniversary of the arrival of man on the moon

Conference: “Guatemala goes to space” from the set of conferences of “The sky is not the limit“. Event in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the arrival of man on the moon, organized at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.

2019 | Organization and development of the workshop: The next frontier of biotechnology

Conference: “Space microbiology: Challenges for biotechnology“. Workshop developed at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, organized in conjunction with Dr. Pamela Pennington. Focused on college students who are interested in the field of space research, biochemistry and microbiology.

2018 | Space Biology and Microbiology Workshop

Conference: Presentation of the results of “Viability of the use of oreganum oleate for the inhibition of Candida albicans in simulated Microgravity“.

Acknowledgments thanks to my work in the space area

In 2019, the University of the Valley of Guatemala gave me the recognition of Outstanding Student due to my work carried out in the two projects in which I was involved in the space area. The image will take you to the note that the university wrote about me. Come read it!
La Prensa Libre also made a note about the projects that I was carrying out during my visit to BioServe Space Technologies. A click on the image will help you read the note.
COFAQUI shares a publication from the University of the Valley of Guatemala, that highlights my work as a student of #BiochemistryandMicrobiology, which highlights the important role that the profession has in our society.
In 2020, AllBiotech recognized me as a Latin American Leader in Biotechnology, for my work in space sciences.