In many ways, Payton Kelly-Van Domelen, a homeschooled student from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, is a typical eighth grader—she enjoys math, science, reading, piano, gymnastics, Harry Potter, and playing with her cat. But there’s one thing that separates Kelly-Van Domelen from most students her age—she designed a crystallization experiment that was conducted by astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) National Lab, and she’s currently working on a second experiment that will fly to the ISS early next year!
Kelly-Van Domelen and her student research team grew crystals onboard the ISS National Lab to test their optimized conditions for crystallization on the ground against crystallization in microgravity. The student team had won the 2017 Space Crystal Prize, sponsored by the ISS National Lab and the Wisconsin Crystal Growing Competition, providing them with the opportunity to fly their experiment to the space station.
For the Wisconsin Crystal Growing Competition, which is held by the Molecular Structure Laboratory of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Chemistry Department, Wisconsin students ages 11 to 18 compete to grow the biggest and highest-quality single crystal on the ground. The winning students are then invited to adapt their ground-based crystallization methods for a flight project to the ISS National Lab to compare crystals grown in space with Earth-grown crystals.
For their first experiment, which launched to the ISS on SpaceX CRS-14 in April, Kelly-Van Domelen and her team used a crystallization method that involves cooling a saturated solution to produce crystals. The team also won the 2018 Space Crystal Prize and is in the process of developing a new flight project, planned for launch in early 2019, that uses a different method involving evaporation to grow crystals.
Communicating what she’s learned with others is important to Kelly-Van Domelen, who presented her team’s results at the 2017 ISS Research and Development Conference in July. Back home, she is sharing her experiences with her community by giving a talk at her local library later today. Read more about Kelly-Van Domelen in this Space Station Explorers student spotlight she wrote.