experimental design

Are you interested in designing an astrobotany experiment?  You’ve come to the right place.  Although a plant biology or research background will be useful, botany research is both accessible and relevant to people from any scientific background.

Most astrobotany experiments aim to gain a greater understanding of how a spaceflight environment affects plant biology.  Here are some questions to ask yourself as a scientist when preparing an astrobotany experiment.

What is the hypothesis?

The hypothesis is the basis of most scientific inquiries.  You will propose an explanation based on your previous knowledge.  If you want a very simple formula, ask yourself: how does X affect Y?  A simple example would be: how does LESS GRAVITY affect PLANT GROWTH?  A more technical example would be: how does THE PEROXIDASE FAMILY OF ENZYMES affect CELL WALL MODELING?  Both of these questions are relevant to growing plants in space.  At the end of the day, it should be a question that you, the scientist should be interested in answering.  Please check out our plants and spaceflight section if you want more background on basic astrobotany.

What resources do I have to perform my experiment?

Sometimes, plant biology experiments can be performed in a non-laboratory setting.  For example, if you wanted to see how different colors of lights affect plant growth, you can see how it may be pretty easy to buy some plants and different color lights and measure height.  Even though an experiment like this is easy to perform, it may be more difficult to analyze.  Your methods must be reproducible and must stand up to scrutiny.  Does this affect all plant species, or just mine?  These are things to keep in mind, but the important thing is to be thorough, no matter the level of experiment.

More technical plant biology experiments require a laboratory setting.  Fume hoods, gloves, pipettes, essential chemicals, autoclaves, centrifuges, PCR machines, and especially safety equipment are necessary to perform higher level experiments.  Academic researchers typically have access to these type of labs at their institution.