Austin Schmitz

Mentor: Dr. Rob Ferl
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
"I am amazed that biology; humans, plants, and animals, are capable of surviving in the novel microgravity environment of space. This amazing fact drives my quest to be a part of the amazing world-wide community of scientists seeking answers to the mystery of space flight."





Research Interests

  • Space Biology
  • Radiation Biology
  • Advanced Life Support

Academic Awards

  • 2016: NASA FSGC Undergraduate Research Grant
  • University Scholars Program 2016


  • Center for Outdoor Recreation and Education


  • Streetlight at UF Shands
  • Science Club Elementary School Outreach - P.K. Yonge

Hobbies and Interests

  • Backpacking
  • Photography
  • Guitar
  • Rock Climbing

Research Description

CRESS - Cosmic Radiation Exposure System for Seeds
The CRESS (Cosmic Radiation Exposure System for Seeds) project will expose wild-type Arabidopsis thaliana seeds to the unique cosmic ray environment of the Earth’s stratosphere. At 120,000 feet, high-altitude balloons are above 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere and are therefore exposed to higher levels of various types of cosmic radiation than on the ground. High energy particles called HZE particles, mainly ionized carbon and iron, are of particular interest due to the damaging effects these particles inflict on genomic material.