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Caleigh Roleck

Caleigh Roleck

2017 & 2018 Astronaut Scholar


Naperville, IL




College of Agriculture / Honors College


Caleigh Roleck studies biochemistry at the College of Agriculture. She is also a member of Purdue Honors College and pursuing minors in statistics and biotechnology. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation recognized the junior with the Astronaut Scholarship in 2017, an award highlighting the initiative, creativity, and excellence of science and engineering students. The national honor is designed to ensure the U.S. maintains its leadership in science and technology.

Roleck hopes to channel a childhood fascination with cells into an applied research career that explores the potential of biomolecules, potentially in the government or as a military scientist. She believes such work can help solve national and global problems and is particularly interested in exploring issues of biofuel production, biosensing, biomanufacturing, and combating antibiotic resistance. Roleck also has an interest in bioethics and science policy.

The Naperville, Illinois native is laying a foundation for her future with Purdue’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (IGEM) team. She helped the team engineer E. coli for phosphorus management. In addition to conducting various experiments, she proposed protocols for verifying the presence of the correct insert in the plasmid, through which the team discovered problems with plasmid assembly, which we were then able to correct.

“When presenting this research, I met an international synthetic biology community and realized that synthetic biology was my primary research interest,” Roleck said. “Synthetic biology has a broad range of potential applications, such as agriculture, technology, and biomedicine, and yet all projects are related to the central idea of manipulating biological systems and designing biological components.”

In addition to her work with IGEM, Roleck works in a lab studying biomolecular interactions between Agrobacterium and their hosts required for genetic transformations in plants. She believes this lab work is deepening her understanding of the genetic engineering process and could eventually help her team improve control and efficiency in the production of genetically modified plants.

Roleck is also a member of Purdue’s Pugwash chapter, an organization dedicated to social responsibility and ethics in science.

Watch as Caleigh describes her Astronaut scholar experience here.