Space shuttle to carry SWT microbiology experiment

Date released: 01/10/03

San Marcos — Included in Space Shuttle Discovery’s payload when it launches Jan. 16 will be a Southwest Texas State University microbiology experiment and the dreams of three San Antonio college students hoping for careers in biomedical science.

The experiment will demonstrate how three different species of bacteria thrive in micro-gravity environments. It was designed by SWT microbiologist Robert McLean, along with three former San Antonio community college students involved in a federally funded program aimed at increasing the number of minority students who pursue careers in biomedical sciences.

Sandra Becerra, Geronimo Cortez and Shanika Glenn were students at Alamo Community College District campuses last summer when they participated in the Bridges to Baccalaureate program at SWT. The program is funded by the National Institutes of Health. The three are currently pursuing degrees at four-year universities.

While working with McLean and SWT biologist Dana Garcia, the group developed an experiment to examine the effect of long-term space travel on bacterial growth. The experiment will be conducted on the next space shuttle flight, currently scheduled for launch on Thursday, Jan. 16. Bacterial cultures carried on the flight will be returned to SWT for examination after the shuttle lands on Feb. 1.

Reporters interested in working on stories about this experiment and the individuals involved, should contact Prof Robert McLean at (512) 245-3365, or via e-mail at