ኢትዮጲያዊው ፕሮፌሰር ከናሳ ድጋፍ አገኙ Ethiopian Prof. Tesfaye Belay Gets Funding from NASA to Research Space Shuttle Bacterium

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Tesfay Belay

BLUEFIELD — bluefieldstate.edu

Belay said the grant is to do research on a space shuttle bacterium. “That causes an infection, in immunocompromised patients in astronauts,” Belay said. “Because astronauts work in space, their immune system is down. The reason we are studying this bacterium is that it lives in water. When the astronauts go to space they use the recycled water in the shuttle. It lives in the pipes of the shuttle and this bacterium lasts for a long time in the pipes.”

Belay said astronauts can easily get infections in space. “When the astronauts are stressed out, because there are living conditions that make you stressed out, they can easily get an infection,” Belay said. “And the reason we are doing this research is part of this bacterium lives in water for a long time. The question we are trying to answer is how does this bacterium survive in water without food for a long time.”

Belay said researchers are also studying the characteristics of the bacterium. “In water,” Belay said. “And we found out that the bacterium can live in water for ten years, nine years to be exact. We have put this bacterium in water for nine years and it still survives.”

According to Belay, researchers don’t understand why the bacterium can live that long. “So we would like to determine what genes are responsible for the bacterium to live,” Belay said. “That’s where we are right now. The grant has been given by NASA West Virginia. The students do the research. They present their findings in local and national conferences. For example, there is a research day in the Capitol, where the senators come and see students of their district presenting and that’s really one of their things they like to do.”

Belay said he has trained approximately 15 students in this specific type of research during his 11 years at Bluefield State College. “I always have one or two students studying on the NASA project,” Belay said. “I have another grant which is a federal one. That grant is for $420,000 for three years. So I have several students working for me right now.”