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Friday, 20 August 2010

Archives : From Planetary Imaging to Enzyme Screening , Issues : 2006 , Category: Health and Medicine

From Planetary Imaging to Enzyme Screening

Issue: 2006
Category: Health and Medicine
Page: 16
Center: Ames Research Center
State: CA Manufacturer: KAIROS Scientific, Inc.
Origin: NASA's Space Biology Program and Small Business Innovation Research Program


To work in NASA's Mission Control Center and share in the excitement of seeing the very first close-up images of Saturn being piped back to Earth (from the Pioneer 11 spacecraft in 1979) is not a sensation that most high school students get to experience. However, as part of an internship in NASA's Space Biology Program, Mary M. Yang had the opportunity to do just that. This rewarding experience of working with NASA turned out to be the first of several for Yang, who, as a young student, was fascinated with planetary imaging and remote sensing observations.

Following high school, she worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, developing sensors for NASA, and attended the University of California, Berkeley. Yang then went on to pursue a doctorate in geology at Princeton University, where her thesis covered spectroscopy and data analysis of minerals and solutions-themes she also encountered in her work for NASA. After completing her doctorate, Yang joined the research laboratory of Douglas Youvan, then a chemistry professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Youvan and Yang developed prototype imaging spectrophotometers that enabled them to acquire spectra directly from bacterial colonies growing on the surface of a Petri plate. This type of imaging instrument analyzes a combination of spatial and spectral information so that spectra can be obtained for each feature in an image. Analyses of this kind were initially applied by NASA to rather large scenes, such as planetary and remote sensing studies. In 1991, Yang and Youvan founded KAIROS (now KAIROS Scientific, Inc.) to extend Yang's NASA "know-how," plus the imaging spectrophotometers initially developed for laboratory-based photosynthesis studies, to the fields of materials science, health, and biotechnology.

Today, KAIROS Scientific develops molecular biology methods, instrumentation, and computer algorithms to create solutions for a host of clients that includes multinational specialty chemical companies, large pharmaceutical firms, and academic laboratories.

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