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Patriots Cheerleaders participate in project for the International Space Station

Posted Feb 5, 2014

As part of Project MERCURI, field and locker room samples sent by the Patriots Cheerleaders and the San Francisco Gold Rush will be used for the Microbial Super Bowl taking place aboard the International Space Station and approved by NASA. Kelly, a rookie member of the NEPC, explains the program and how she combines her love of science and football.

What a great season we had! It’s been amazing to cheer for a team that is so skilled and wonderfully coached that we were able to host the Colts at home for the Divisional Playoffs and then watch our Patriots in the AFC Championship. I’m already excited for what next season will bring, and I’m especially hoping for a Patriots appearance in Super Bowl XLIX in my home state of Arizona.

I’m writing to let you know about a different Super Bowl taking place this March…in outer space! This time, it’s the New England Patriots vs. the San Francisco 49ers in the Microbial Super Bowl aboard the International Space Station. Back in August, we swabbed our field and sent the samples to researchers at UC Davis, who determined that the Patriots will be one of two teams to compete for “best sprinter” (the microbe that can grow the fastest in a near zero-g environment) and “best huddler” (the microbe that can grow to the highest density).

I’ll update you once the results come in, but in the meantime, I thought I’d mention why this is so exciting to me. This year, I’ve had the amazing opportunity of being a Science Cheerleader, which is an organization of women who are both professional cheerleaders and scientists. I am just two years away from receiving my Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience from Boston College (having recently received my M.A. at Boston College and a Ed.M. from Harvard University), and this is the first semester that I am teaching my very own college course, which has been a lifelong goal. As far as research is concerned, I am very fortunate to be funded by the US Department of Defense to investigate how sleep and cortisol (a stress hormone) affect how we process and remember emotional information. This has important implications both for memory research and our understanding of PTSD.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to cheer for the best team in the NFL while continuing my scientific pursuits. Through efforts like the Microbial Super Bowl, I hope to show everyone that there is so much more to cheerleaders than what meets the eye. Yes, we love football and we love the Patriots, but we are also smart, determined, and hard-working, making valuable contributions to society both on and off the field.

Even though Super Bowl XLVIII has passed, we still have a Super Bowl in outer space to win! Cheers to science, and Go Pats!

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