In November, UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences student Milly Gandhi presented her research on 3D printing and plant growth at the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR) meeting in Houston, Texas, with financial support from the VP Promise. ASGSR provides a forum to foster research, education and professional development in the multidisciplinary fields of gravitational life and physical science research.
Gandhi, a senior majoring in plant science and biological engineering, presented the summer research she conducted at Kennedy Space Center. Her project involved testing the characterizations of 3D printed materials and their effects on the germination stage of plant growth. Germination is the sprouting of a seed or spore. She assessed germination by laying two pieces of germination paper down with the 3D printed petri dish insert and seeds of lettuce to fit in the holes of the insert. The project tested 15 different materials to assess their performance during various plant growth scenarios. The goal of the project was to understand how materials impact the way plants grow and food safety as well as if any materials leach chemicals or micro-plastics. “From the germination tests we have completed we have seen little impact on germination rate of these seeds,” Gandhi said. “However, some parts absorb moisture. An ideal material is one that doesn’t leach chemicals or micro-plastics, can withstand high tension and compression, and doesn’t promote microbial growth. My research opened the doors to more connections and more opportunities,” she continued.
She also connected with current researchers in space agriculture on future outlooks for space travel. Some research included growing other space plants and making space wine. Gandhi’s biggest surprise was seeing the commercialization of the International Space Station (ISS). “Since the ISS is about to reach 30 years in commission, the private sector wants to build a new one in the hopes of promoting more research in space,” she said. Gandhi also connected with high school students conducting research, some of whom remembered her from Zoom calls during her summer research. “It was so nice to meet people who remembered me and were impacted by my research,” Gandhi said.
Gandhi was able to attend the conference with funding from the VP Promise Initiative, which provides financial assistance for students pursuing experiences outside the classroom in agriculture, life sciences and natural resources.
The VP Promise is an initiative to provide financial assistance for students pursuing experiences in agriculture, life sciences and natural resources. CALS supports student success both inside and outside of the classroom and encourages students to broaden their perspectives through enriching opportunities such as study abroad programs and travel to conferences. For more information on the VP Promise visit the CALS website.