Maize on Mars

Raegan Hoefler

Raegan Hoefler (Genetics) was inspired by the movie "The Martian." In the movie, the main character is an astronaut who is left on Mars that survives by cultivating potatoes left behind. With the help of NASA and genetics professor Thomas Peterson, Hoefler conducted a study to see if producing food on Mars is a possibility by looking into the effects of irradiation on the growth of maize. Her project does this by exposing the plants to both ultraviolet and x-ray irradiation to simulate the environment of Mars.

For genetics majors at Iowa State, learning stretches from the classroom into the laboratory. Faculty like Dr. Peterson - who holds the Pioneer Chair in Maize Molecular Genetics - encourage their students to find inspiration in their work by applying it to topics that interest them. That's why we highly encourage student research.

Raegan's inspiration paid off with a research grant and scholarship from NASA’s National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. She also discovered a passion that encouraged her to pursue a graduate degree in plant genetics. Not a bad result from a night at the movies.

Read more about Raegan's project at STORIES.