HUMMUS1

HUMMUS1 is a preliminary experiment looking into the survival of rhizobia, specifically for chickpea plant growth. The experiment compromised of putting these bacteria into a payload into a rocket, with the hope to see the effects of vibrations and g-forces acting upon a population and which growth environment would be best suited to the bacteria. HUMMUS1 was successfully launched and safely returned on Friday the 19thApril, with thanks to the AIAA UNSW’s rocketry team in Westmar, Queensland during the Australian Universities Rocketry Competition (AURC). The retrieved bacteria is currently being analysed and hopefully the effects will be able to be seen in the coming month. The experiment tested cultures of rhizobia in different environments; liquid broth, mini petri dishes and in bags of peat (a soil-like environment). With a ground control to compare the launched-rhizobia to, the experiment is to investigate the effects of vibrations and g-forces acting upon a population and which growth environment would be best suited to the bacteria in the HUMMUS2 launch.
HUMMUS1 is currently in the data analysis process after a successful experiment aboard a rocket launch at the AURC in April 2019. 
AURC: An in-depth personal account of the trip and the experiment by Team Lead

 Scarlett Li-Williams 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HUMMUS1 was successfully launched and safely returned on Friday the 19th April, with thanks to the AIAA UNSW’s rocketry team in Westmar, Queensland during the Australian Universities Rocketry Competition (AURC). The retrieved bacteria is currently being analysed and hopefully the effects will be able to be seen in the coming month. The experiment tested cultures of rhizobia in different environments; liquid broth, mini petri dishes and in bags of peat (a soil-like environment). With a ground control to compare the launched-rhizobia to, the experiment is to investigate the effects of vibrations and g-forces acting upon a population and which growth environment would be best suited to the bacteria in the HUMMUS2 launch.

 

The actual moment of the launch was beyond anything I could have imagined, to see the rocket go up followed by the parachute successfully deploying provided waves of indescribable emotions. The last couple years had led up to this initial experiment and the last few months of continuous late nights, endless organisational nightmares and experimental protocols continuously changing and had all come down to that moment.  

 

 

 

 

 

The amount of preparation up the launch was unimaginable. With constantly sprinting over the city between all the various generous supports and sponsors of the project and trying to bring it all together before leaving was one aspect that kept me on my toes. Sitting in front of a computer brought just as much exhaustion, as the experimental protocol was constantly in revision as every possible problem had to be considered and given a solution before leaving. With limited resources where the launch was held- including no access to water, internet or indoor environments (as it was all tents in a field); there were so many variables that had to be considered and the odds always looked against us. This did not even include possible problems related to the engineering of the rocket and payload itself. It was my university assignments that gave me the break and relief from having to think of it all!

On the road trip up to the site of the camp and the launch we encountered a couple bumps along the way, literally. This resulted in us losing two out of our three possible samples for the liquid bacteria culture, as the car swerved with one jar smashing and another leaking. However, this thankfully did not affect the experiment, as these jars had been an over-planned back up jar and a back-up-back-up jar.

 

The next few days were in preparation of the launch, with engineering students from BlueSat UNSW and AIAA Rocketry all doing their own final revisions and tweaks too. The day of the launch finally came around and the members of SAAS Missions BioSphere UNSW, Ashleigh Ford, Yasmin Akhtar and myself, were up pipetting in our sterile experiment tent before sunrise. Finally, with the plates complete and the peat bags taped up, we were able to hand our bacteria cultures to the rocket team and head on up to the launch site. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a successful collection of the rocket, the celebrations began for the engineers but for the biologists it seemed the work was only starting as we had to examine the results. Now back in the sterile labs at UNSW (with thankfully four solid walls), under the generous supervision of Dr Brendan Burns (BABS and ACA) who has been a supporter and sponsor throughout the project since it first started in 2017, we can now began investigating the results of the launch.

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the Sponsors and Supporters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many people and organisations that need to be thanked because without whom the project could not have gone ahead. This project was an interdisciplinary collaboration with multiple companies, universities, societies and faculties, all of whom listed above. 

 

A massive thank you has to be made to Jade Hartley and Ivan Kennedy at the Pulsford Lab at University of Sydney’s Institute of Agriculture who contributed the bacterial cultures, medium and mentoring of the experiment itself. In addition to Dr Brendan Burns for his constant support throughout and use of his lab space. In addition to the School of BABS and BEES, and the ACA at UNSW for their sponsorship and donations to the project, as well as the BioHacking Society UNSW for the equipment donations and lending. We kindly received donations from New Edge Microbials and BioFoundry without whom the experiment would have been a massive struggle and individual contributions from friends and family for the odd thing that made all the difference when stuck in the middle of a field with no access to resources. 

 

The collaborataion with BlueSat UNSW and AIAA UNSW meant the project could happen and without the launch, we would not have an experiment at all. The dedicated team members representing UNSW during the AURC include: 

 

  • AIAA UNSW: Justin Tran, Arfin Muhammed, Tom Grimes, Morgan Armstrong, Vanja Videnovic, Jeff Chang, Eric Lin, Pranav Patil, Simon Bohun, Swapnil Yadav, Tom Nguyen and Vineeth Rao. 

 

  • BioSphere: Ashleigh Ford, Yasmin Akhtar, Scarlett Li-Williams

 

  • BlueSat UNSW: Timothy Guo, Jackie Deng, Nora Deng 

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