Current Research Activities

Students from NSU’s Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences Place Experiments Onboard Space Shuttle Endeavour

FT. LAUDERDALE-DAVIE, Fla. –NASA’s final launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour missions, STS-134 on April 19, 2011, will include experiments that Heidi Mederos and Richard Sung, freshmen biology majors at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, will be conducting in the lab.

Under the direction of the college’s Dimitri Giarikos, Ph.D., associate professor/coordinator of sciences, and Barry Pearlman, M.S., principal investigator and associate lecturer, the two students, who are participants in the college’s Undergraduate Honors Program and Dual Admission program for dental medicine, will conduct multiple experiments focused on the formation and growth of tin crystals. Environmental conditions, such as those found in space, can affect crystal growth. In microgravity, crystals are known to grow larger and with a much more “perfect” shape than on Earth. There are times when crystals do not grow unless they are formed in microgravity due to the reduced acceleration environment. Earth’s gravity impacts crystals by constraining their growth and causing defects.

Microgravity research has been a major area of research in the space programs of all space faring nations. The potential scientific, technological, and commercial benefits of microgravity research to humankind are substantial, especially in the biomedical and drug development sectors.

“The college is very proud of student and faculty involvement in this project,” said Don Rosenblum, Ph.D., dean of the college. “It is a unique opportunity for our Honors students, as
they are gaining invaluable research experience. Through their involvement, the college faculty members are both contributing to the field and informing their classroom instruction.”
This is a historic opportunity for the students and NSU. It marks the first time in the history of the university that students have been able to place experiments on a NASA Space Shuttle, and the April launch marks the last of NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour flights. Commanding the mission will be Mark Kelly, husband of wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Gifford.
“I feel privileged to be able to partake in such an interesting experiment,” said Mederos. “This will be the last journey of NASA’s Endeavour shuttle to space, and knowing that I will participate in the investigation of one of the experiments it will take (onboard) is very rewarding. I am thankful to Dr. Giarikos for allowing me to work with him, Mr. Perlman, and my fellow classmate on this project.”

The opportunity to place the experiments onboard STS-134 comes as a result of collaboration between the Emil Buehler Research Center for Engineering, Science and Mathematics at NSU (EBRC) and NanoRacks LLC (, who is providing the commercial payload mini-lab under their Space Act agreement with NASA’s International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory Program.

The students will work with Giarikos and Perlman in analyzing the crystals when they are returned to Earth. The crystals will be studied using a scanning electron microscope to determine if the space-grown tin crystals have a different growth pattern than those grown on Earth. Also lending assistance on the project are EBRC project directors, Hui Fang Huang “Angie” Su, Ed.D., from NSU’s Fischler School of Education, and Eric S. Ackerman, Ph.D., from NSU’s Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences.


About Nova Southeastern University: Situated on 300 beautiful acres in Davie, Florida, Nova Southeastern University is a dynamic fully accredited institution dedicated to providing high-quality educational programs of distinction from preschool through the professional and doctoral levels. NSU has more than 29,000 students and is the seventh largest not-for-profit independent institution nationally. The university awards associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, specialist, doctoral, and first-professional degrees in a wide range of fields, including business, counseling, computer and information sciences, education, medicine, optometry, pharmacy, dentistry, various health professions, law, marine sciences, early childhood, psychology and other social sciences. Classified as a research university with “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, NSU was also awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification in 2010 for the university’s significant commitment to and demonstration of community engagement. For more information about NSU, visit

About the Emil Buehler Research Center for Engineering, Science and Mathematics (EBRC): EBRC is a research center which will be housed within the Center for Collaborative Research at NSU. EBRC is funded in part by a generous gift from the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust. The EBRC focus will be that of providing support to the small payload community by facilitating the development of space hardware designed by a new generation of microgravity researchers, focused on conducting suborbital and orbital research on the next generation of space launch vehicles. It will also serve as a training ground to advance education and retention in the critical fields of aerospace, mathematics, science, technology and engineering. Researchers and engineers using this payload processing facility will be able to
assemble, test and prepare for flight small to medium sized payloads, sounding rockets, low-gravity aircraft instrumentation and experiments and small orbital re-entry vehicles. Working in conjunction with community space organizations, the EBRC will be uniquely positioned to identify worthwhile microgravity research opportunities where the facility’s state-of-the-art capabilities in design and fabrication can be utilized to bring exciting new concepts to rapid fruition.

Contact Us

Hui Fang Huang "Angie" Su, Ed.D.
Program Administrator/Project Director/CO-PI
Professor of Mathematics Education
Fischler School of Education and
Human Services
Nova Southeastern University
1750 NE 167th Street
North Miami Beach, FL 33162
(954) 262-8865
1-800-986-3223 ext. 28865

Eric S. Ackerman, Ph.D.
Project Director/CO-PI
Associate Professor
Graduate School of Computer and
Information Sciences
Nova Southeastern University
3301 College Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314
(954) 262-2063
1-800-986-2247 ext. 22063

Fast Facts

NSU is a not-for-profit, independent university that is classified as a research university with “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and is one of only 37 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification. We have more than 28,000 students, more than 152,000 alumni, a sprawling, 300-acre Fort Lauderdale-Davie campus and a presence throughout Florida, the U.S. and nine countries around the world. Through five decades of explosive growth, our reputation for academic excellence and innovation continues to flourish.