Tardigrade-Powered Awesome Space Potatoes

  • Science Theater
  • Theater, Vortrag

High school students at Heidelberg International School (HIS) will perform an extraordinary science theater to tell Laura’s story, a master’s student at Heidelberg University, who dreams of growing potatoes in space.

Space is hostile: it is cold, dry, dark, and most importantly, there is strong radiation. Laura comes up with a plan: she will transfer genes from an unusually talented animal, a tardigrade, to potatoes to make sure that the plants can resist the radiation in space. A team of researchers from Cambridge University and Heidelberg University, from medical companies to agricultural companies, come together to help her overcome the obstacles of the project. She is ready to conduct her experiments, but she has one last challenge to address: Getting the support of the community for her project.

High school students will explain the most complicated experiments in Laura’s exciting project in the most understandable way possible through semi-improvisational theater performance and conduct live experiments on the stage. The experts will provide in-depth insight into the feasibility of the project and answer questions from the audience.

The final question is going to be answered at the end of the night: will the Heidelberg community embrace Laura’s exciting, unorthodox idea, or will the project be off the table once and for all? The audience will decide.

Language: English

Tickets: 3 € at the box office

Please register in advance via e-mail at events@dai-heidelberg.de

Invited Speakers:

Dr. Özdemirhan Serçin is an inspiring group leader at BioMed X-Heidelberg. He is developing innovative strategies for the treatment of cancer. He got his PhD from a Nobel prize-winning lab working on DNA repair in North Carolina, USA.

Life is unstable: Environmental conditions can be challenging. Our enzymes make mistakes. Aging, viruses, chemicals, and even simple UV radiation from the sun damage the DNA. Among all this chaos, DNA damage repair kits in our cells provide chemical stability for life. Özdemirhan will highlight the ancient DNA repair mechanisms and explain why they have been critical for the understanding and treatment of cancer. In his talk, we will explore whether genes responsible for DNA damage repair in animals can help plants protect their own DNA from radiation in space.


Dr. Magdalena Szczygiel-Buchner is a cancer biologist and proteomic enthusiast. After working in Poland, the Netherlands, and at DKFZ in Heidelberg, she is busy with developing tooling for the identification of proteins in a soup of cells, a task slightly more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack.

Magda will address the unusual features and proteins of one of the most mysterious animals, tardigrades. Tardigrades are known to be resilient to cold, extreme pressures, and lethal doses of radiation. Initial data suggested that the tardigrades could potentially survive space travel. NASA sent tardigrades to the International Space Station with the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft. In Magda’s talk, we will get to understand how to use tardigrades to make the potatoes great again.


Prof. Dr. Gabi Krczal is the head of RLP AgroScience Plant Research Institute in Neustadt an der Weinstraße. Gabi is one of the leading scientists as the biotechnology advisor of several NGOs and governmental bodies.

Gabi will address the current applications in plant biotechnology. In the last 40 years, the field has become an important source for plant breeding, agricultural applications, and biomedical products. However, public misinformation on the use of plant biotechnology has impeded innovations in Europe. Gabi will inform us about the current state of plant biotechnology and the technical and political hurdles that scientists deal with.


Laura Schütz M.Sc. just got her master’s degree from Heidelberg University and is nominated for the Otto-Schmeil-Award.

Laura will appear on the stage to explain the story behind the awesome space potatoes project. Coming up with a plausible project requires extensive knowledge of the current state of knowledge in the field, the methods available and useful for the goals, and a clever design of scientific experiments. Laura will take us through the journey of project writing and her motivation to reach to her goal.


Writer and Director: Dr. Veli Vural Uslu is not only the head of translational plant epigenetic lab in Neustadt an der Weinstraße and a lecturer at Heidelberg University, but also the writer and director of the awesome space potatoes science theatre.

Veli will talk about the science theater project and the citizen science concept. The progress in science is exciting but it also gets more complicated every day. The knowledge gap between scientists and laymen increases exponentially, leading to distrust in science and disinformation. Science communication takes on the critical ambassador role to keep science laboratories connected to our daily lives. Veli will open the doors of his laboratory for science enthusiasts, who seek answers to specific questions while sharing his experiences of training hundreds of scientists in science communication.