Liliana Mellor, a Boise State postdoctoral research fellow, has been selected by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute to be a part of its 2011-2013 class of postdoctoral fellows. This marks the first time a Boise State student has received a research fellowship from the institute. Mellor will conduct research that could help astronauts spend a longer time in space with fewer adverse health effects. This is a very exciting experience for me because this study would bring a unique component to the growing field of space biomedical research and would hopefully open a new field for future research, Mellor said.NASA is planning prolonged space missions such as trips to Mars, which take nine months rather than the three-day flight to the moon, she said. “It is important to understand if the human body can withstand such a long exposure to zero-gravity environment.The two-year fellowship program offers participants the opportunity to manage their own space-related biomedical research project while continuing to learn from a faculty mentor. Mellors research could help protect astronaut health by determining if living in microgravity can increase the chances of astronauts developing early osteoarthritis. Research suggests that astronauts suffer from bone density loss after long exposure to microgravity. But there is no published data on osteoarthritis and microgravity. In addition to Mellor, students from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University Medical Center also received awards to research in areas related to astronaut health. Participants in the fellowship receive a $50,000 annual stipend and additional funds to cover health insurance and travel to fellowship-related meetings.