NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC) is delighted to announce recipients of its September 2017 Call for Proposals.  Award recipients, which include 6 faculty, 37 graduate/undergraduate students, and 3 Quadcopter teams (3 faculty and 15 students), are from 17 NASA CTSGC academic affiliate member institutions. Below are the names of recipients and description of the Faculty Research and Graduate/Undergraduate Research Fellowship projects. Congratulations to all the awardees!

Faculty Research

Kevin Huang
Trinity College
“Intelligent Interfaces for VR/AR Mediated Teleoperation of Heterogeneous Space Robots”
Robots offer practical advantages over humans: they are resistant to harmful conditions, strong, accurate and scalable, making them well-suited for space operations. However, fully autonomous robots are not adaptable enough in unpredictable scenarios. Telerobotics bridges the high-level decision making of humans with the advantages of machines. The challenge lies in enabling safe and intuitive control of the robot. The proposed research aims to implement virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and an intelligent software layer to provide a seamless human interface to operate heterogeneous space robots to perform tasks such as scientific experiments, emergency response, maintenance work and assembly.

Mohammed Keshawarz
University of Hartford
“Characerization of Carbon Fiber-Bamboo Reinforced Hybrid Composite”
Composite materials have been used in aerospace applications as preferred material for construction of aircraft or space craft for years. This research is aimed to gain a better understanding of mechanical properties of epoxy resin hybrid composite reinforced with bamboo and carbon fiber. Tensile, compressive, flexural, and impact tests will be performed to obtain property data for the material. Laminates will be constructed by vacuum infusion process. Effects of orientation and quantity of the bamboo and carbon fibers on the mechanical characteristics of the hybrid composite will be investigated. Bamboo-Carbon fiber reinforced hybrid composite has the potential to be an alternative material at lower cost and reduced adverse environmental impact in aerospace and similar applications.

John Miecznikowski
Fairfield University
“Synthesis, Characterization, and Reactivity of SNS Cobalt (II) Pincer Complexes”
We seek to prepare and characterize cobalt(II) pincer complexes, which will be cobalt(II) model catalyst analogs of zinc(II) liver alcohol dehydrogenase (LADH). New catalysts are always needed to accelerate reactions. We have already published zinc(II) model complexes of LADH; now we want to form analogous cobalt(II) complexes. We are using clues from Nature to prepare the cobalt(II) complexes, which will be screened for the catalytic reduction of aldehydes. Since I will be working with at least one student on this research, the project described herein will also help progress NASA’s goal to advance the Nation’s STEM education and workforce pipeline.

Ali Senejani
University of New Haven
“Evaluating the Role of DNA Damage from Radiation and Inflammation in neurodegenerative Diseases”
Space radiation can damage cells; especially inside the nucleus of each cell where genetic materials are located. Increased level of radiation and inflammation are known to cause DNA damage and mutation contributing to the development of many diseases including cancer and neural disorders. With this grant, we are going to study a mechanistic link between radiation and inflammation with human (astronauts) health. Especially we will be evaluating level of oxidative stress and free radical attack on neural cells. We will explore how this potentially can lead to neurodegeneration in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and many other neural disorders.

Katherine Whitaker
University of Connecticut
“Shaping Up COSMOS-DASH: Releasing a Public Morhological Catalog to the Astronomical Community”
Distant massive galaxies are rare by number and surprisingly compact. Understanding their formation requires deep high-resolution imaging over wide swaths of the sky. Such science is perfectly suited to Hubble Space Telescope’s capabilities: the innovative “COSMOS-DASH” uses a new observing technique to image over 0.6 deg2 8x‘s more efficiently than the standard-mode. Here, we propose to deliver a public COSMOS-DASH morphological catalog to the community covering 3x‘s larger area than the current state-of-the-art. This catalog enables science that will deepen our understanding of the physical processes governing the most massive beasts of the cosmos.

Graduate Research Fellowship

Kelly Aho
Yale University
“CO2 Evasion from the Connecticut River Watershed”
“Freshwater outgassing” was added to the IPCC carbon cycle in the AR5 highlighting that freshwaters process carbon and release CO2. The magnitude of this flux remains uncertain, in part, because CO2 concentrations in streams/rivers are understudied. I will monitor and model CO2 concentrations in the Connecticut River Watershed to describe controls (climate/landcover) on CO2 variability. I hypothesize that evasion estimates from my process-based model will capture natural variability and thus be more accurate than current estimates. This research relates directly to NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth by increasing our understanding of processes controlling CO2 evasion to improve global carbon models.

Meredith Powell
Yale University
“The Environments of Growing Supermassive Black Holes”
This research will study the cosmic environments of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) to address unresolved questions about black hole-galaxy co-evolution. By measuring the clustering of a local, unbiased sample of Swift-BAT hard-X-ray selected AGN in various bins of luminosity, obscuration, accretion rate, and black hole mass, I will determine the large-scale environment in which growing supermassive black holes tend to reside as a function of these properties, and will use these results to test current AGN-galaxy evolutionary scenarios. This will shed light on how rapid black hole growth is triggered, as well its role in the evolution of galaxies.

Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Joyce Caliendo
University of Connecticut
“Chitosan Antimicrobial Coatings to Decrease Growth of Bacteria in the International Space Station”
This project will develop an antimicrobial chitosan coating for paper-like materials that maintains its barrier properties while withstanding bacteria present on the International Space Station. To do this I will use chitosan with montmorillonite which dries in layers to decrease WVT. In preliminary research, it was found that barrier properties have been improved on paper. Polyvinyl alcohol and glutaraldehyde will be used to bind hydroxyl groups and keep the coating cohesive. As bacteria on the ISS is becoming a serious problem to NASA’s astronauts and their immune systems, the coating could greatly improve conditions by killing harmful bacteria.

Eric Lepowsky
University of Connecticut
“Three Dimensional Bioprinting for Life Supporting Ecosystems in Space”
Expanding the frontiers of knowledge, capability, and opportunity in space, NASA has been seeking ways to engineer artificial tools to support human life. Engineered living filters would allow for the collection of resources critical for life supporting ecosystems, instead of heavily relying on cargos from Earth. The most promising tool to grow useful objects, like living filters, in resource-limited environments, like space, is 3D printing. For these reasons, this project aims to leverage the adaptability of 3D printing by developing a 3D bioprinter that is capable of fabricating tissues for life supporting ecosystems in space. This 3D bioprinter will function on a layer-by-layer additive manufacturing method, whereby cell-laden bioink is deposited and cured following a computer-designed pattern.

Katherine Melbourne
Yale University
“Exploring the Effect of Stellar Magnetic Activity on Exoplanet Detection”
Offering potential habitability and the possibility of harboring life, exoplanets are often discovered using the Radial Velocity (RV) technique. This method detects changes in the velocity of a star’s motion caused by the gravitational pull of a planet orbiting that star. This research will examine a potential method of improving current RV analyses by taking into account the effect stellar magnetic activity has on RV data. The increase in RV precision expected as an outcome of this research will allow for the detection of Earth-sized planets, supporting one of the Exoplanet Exploration program initiatives in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

Tyler Metivier
University of Connecticut
“Simulating the Detectability of Tidal Features in the Distant Universe”
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has given us profound realizations of the magnitude of our cosmos. But how far can we push modern instrumentation? Looking at early epochs in our universe while cosmological distances increase, decreases the clarity and understanding of what we’re observing due to surface brightness dimming and other factors. Tidal features, faint stellar imprints of galactic mergers and accretion events, provide insight on the formation of galaxies. Simulating the detection of these features at early points in time can tell us how far we can push HST and make predictions for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

Jonas Powell
Wesleyan University
“Characterizing Disks Around a Young Stellar Binary in a High Mass Environment”
Here we use molecular line data from ALMA tracing HCO+, HCN, CS, and CO to observe the young two-disk binary system V2434 Ori in Orion. This is the first binary disk to be resolved in Orion and thus offers a unique perspective on disk formation. We develop a model for the system to establish constraints for each disk’s mass, radius, temperature structure, and molecular abundances. We will compare our results to another disk nearby, modeled using similar methods, and to previously characterized disks in low-mass SFRs to investigate the role of environment in disk chemistry and planetary system formation.

Faculty STEM Education Programming

Elizabeth Cowles 
Eastern Connecticut State University
“Supporting Authenic Research for Local High School Students”

Community College Quadcopter Challenge

The Quad Squad
Northwestern Connecticut Community College

The Quad Squad, the Other Team
Northwestern Connecticut Community College

Quinebaug Valley Community College

New England Rotors
Three Rivers Community College

Undergraduate Scholarship

Seamus Houlihan
Yale University

Donovan Palmer
Trinity College

Nickelle Partyka
Central Connecticut State University

Jonas Powell
Wesleyan University

Alexandra Sinson
Trinity College

Hunter Vannir
Wesleyan University

Peter Woolard
Central Connecticut State University

Community College Transfer Scholarship

Elaina Becher
University of Connecticut

Justin Fagnoni
Central Connecticut State University

Jeffrey Pearce
Central Connecticut State University

Levi Reynolds
Southern Connecticut State University

David Sanabria
University of Connecticut

Giuliano Stabile
University of Connecticut

Community College Scholarship

Kevin Armstrong
Capital Community College

Amanda Guglielmo
Naugatuck Community College

Giselle Koo
Tunxis Community College

Michael Koutoumbas
Norwalk Community College

Heidi Pokorny
Asnuntuck Community College

Project Grant

Blake Bennett
Central Connecticut State University
“Autonomous Underwater Vehicles”

Boratyn Veronica
Yale University
“Solar Plane”

Tyron Hill
Central Connecticut State University
“Multirotor With Multidirectional Robotic Arm”

Jonathan Li 
Yale University
“Semiautonomous Unmanned Tiltrotor Development”

Ellen Yang
Yale University
“Experimental Hybrid Fuel Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) Project”

Student Travel

Cail Daley
Wesleyan University

Jordyn-Marie Dudley
Wesleyan University

Hannah Fritze
Wesleyan University

Zachary Lambros 
Wesleyan University

Reid Perkins
Wesleyan University

Jonas Powell 
Wesleyan University

Ryan Toner 
Fairfield University