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UT Tyler Awarded $100,000 NASA Grant 

Dr. Shawana Tabassum to help NASA better understand how plants respond in space 

TYLER, Texas (March 21, 2023) – The University of Texas at Tyler announced that it has been  awarded a $100,000 grant by NASA to advance the fundamental understanding of plants in spaceflight-like environments. Dr. Shawana Tabassum, UT Tyler assistant professor of electrical  engineering, will serve as the principal investigator for the project, “Leaf Sensor Network for In Situ  and Multiparametric Analysis of Crop Stressors.” 

The objective is to better understand plants’ responses to stressors in those type of environments  using a wireless, multivariable leaf sensor. Tabassum’s research focuses on flexible and wearable  sensors, electronics, micro/nano-optics, microfluidic devices, and their applications in plant  sciences, biomedicine and sustainable environments. 

“Our central hypothesis is that real-time data collected on plant responses can be used to  determine the fundamental ways plants interact with microclimatic conditions associated with  living in space,” said Tabassum. 

Results from this research will enable scientists to predict crop performance in spaceflight  conditions and support future experiments aboard the International Space Station designed to  increase understanding of plant growth under microgravity conditions, Tabassum added. 

“Our technology has competitive advantages over the existing methods of conducting molecular  analyses of plants by providing continuous and in situ monitoring capabilities, and multi-parametric  detection of stress-related biomolecules,” she said. “It may also be able to assist in the  identification of plant species that can best adapt to the unique growing conditions in space.” 

UT Tyler will collaborate with Texas A&M University-College Station, as project activities will be  conducted at the Texas A&M University AgriLife Research facility. 

“This award recognizes the high quality and innovation of Dr. Tabassum’s work,” said Dr. Steven  Idell, UT Tyler senior vice president for research. “We are extremely proud that her contributions  will assist NASA in their efforts.” 

Tabassum, who joined the UT Tyler engineering faculty in 2020, most recently earned the 2023  Curtis W. McGraw Research Award (Non-PhD Granting Program Category) from the American  Society for Engineering Education. The award recognizes outstanding work by young engineering  college researchers.

NASA leads a Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes working with U.S. industry,  international partners and academia to develop new technology, and send science research and  soon humans to explore the Moon on Artemis missions that will help prepare for human  exploration of the Red Planet. In addition to those major missions, the agency shares its information  in the hopes to make life better for people worldwide. For more information, visit  

With a mission to improve educational and health care outcomes for East Texas and beyond, UT  Tyler offers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs to 10,000 students. UT Tyler  recently merged with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler (now known as UT  Tyler Health Science Center). Through its alignment with UT Tyler Health Science Center (HSC) and  UT Health East Texas, UT Tyler has unified these entities to serve Texas with quality education,  cutting-edge research and excellent patient care. Classified by Carnegie as a doctoral research  institution and by U.S. News & World Report as a national university, UT Tyler has campuses in  Tyler, Longview, Palestine and Houston. 


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