NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC) is excited to announce recipients of its December 2017 Call for Proposals.  Award recipients, which include 6 faculty and 27 graduate/undergraduate students are from 12 NASA CTSGC academic affiliate member institutions. aselow are the names of all recipients and descriptions of the Faculty Research, Faculty STEM Education Research, and Graduate/Undergraduate Research Fellowship projects. Congratulations to all the awardees!


Faculty Research

Matthew Graham
Eastern Connecticut State University
“Knock, Knock, Who’s There? A Diversity Discovery Mission of Unculturable Bacteria in Scorpions”
Antimicrobial resistance is the survival of bacteria in the presence of antibiotics. Each year 25,000 Americans die because our current antibiotics cannot kill their infections. Bacterial infections are a growing concern in space too. As most antibiotics used today were isolated from bacteria, the discovery of new antibiotics requires the discovery of new bacteria. This proposal seeks the discovery of novel bacteria from ancient organisms, scorpions. A series of sophisticated molecular techniques, performed by undergraduates, will reveal the collection of bacteria (the microbiome) found in two different scorpion species, at a level of unprecedented detail. The research has implications for treating antimicrobial resistance on earth and in space.

Ivana Milanovic
University of Hartford
“Fighting Howls and Hisses in Jet Engine”
One of NASA’s goals is to achieve substantial noise reduction for future subsonic aircraft. This is a challenge since not all underlying causes of aircraft noise are understood. This project will investigate two dual-stream nozzle configurations using Computational Aeroacoustics (CAA) with the objective of predicting the appearance of tones in jet engines and their sources. The focus of the work is on exploring the nature of duct modes. First, elements of the numerical procedure will be studied for a 4-strut nozzle, validating the results with existing experimental data. The approach will be applied to a 3-strut geometry and different excitation methods. The proposed study will lead to methods for suppression or avoidance of undesirable tones in aircraft engines.

Brian Stewart
Wesleyan University
“An Improved Model of Molecular Vibrational Energy Transfer”
This research will build energy transfer scaling relationships valid at the high velocities important in modeling shocked gases in hypersonic flight and atmospheric entry by combining experimental and computational determinations of rate coefficients with insight from simple models. Existing mostly empirical models rely upon low-velocity, one-dimensional scaling. Prior experiments have demonstrated the limitations of one-dimensional dynamics and the importance of including the rotational degree of freedom. These insights will be the starting point for an improved model. The grant will provide the foundation for this effort by extending experimental capabilities, providing computational time, and supporting ongoing collaborations.


Graduate Research Fellowship

Yotam Cohen
Yale University
“The Nature of Newly Discovered Low Surface Brightness Galaxies”
Using the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a new robotic refracting telescope optimized for low surface brightness imaging, we have detected numerous low surface brightness objects in deep, wide field images centered on nearby galaxy groups. As part of HST cycle 24, we are obtaining ACS imaging for 23 of these objects. The high-resolution data from ACS will allow us to measure accurate distances to these objects using resolved stellar populations, as well as their physical and structural properties. More generally, this work will use HST to provide the first systematic insight into galaxies whose surface brightness peaks at > 24 mag arcsec-2 outside the local group, in line with NASA’s mission of advancing our knowledge of the universe.

Amanda Marston
University of New Haven
“Evaluating the Protective Effects of Vitamin E and N-Acetyl-Cysteine Against DNA Damage Caused by Ionizing Radiation”
Obtaining damage caused by ionizing radiation is a job-related hazard that astronauts face. Ionizing radiation causes an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) which then allows DNA damage and cell death to occur. This harmful interaction can in turn result in cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration, and cancer. However, antioxidants have been shown to lower the amount of ROS. Therefore, we propose that pretreatment with Vitamin E and N-acetyl-cysteine prior to being exposed to ionizing radiation will lower the amount of DNA damage accrued. To analyze our hypothesis, assays will be performed to investigate ROS levels in cells pretreated with antioxidants.

Michael Oldakowski
University of New Haven
“Effects of Oxygen on Pathogenic Bacteria”
Recent data has shown that pathogenic bacterial biofilms may grow differently in space stations than Earth. There were several investigations on space related environmental factors but oxygen levels were not studied. This proposal will investigate how different oxygen levels affect biofilm growth. Our laboratory has shown that Lyme disease spirochetes can form an organized biofilm which is resilient to environmental factors. This biofilm model will be used to better understand how spirochetal bacteria respond to low or no oxygen conditions. Results from this study will help to better understand the safety measures needed during space travel to ensure successful missions.


Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Alexandra Goriounova
University of New Haven
“Collection and Chemical Analysis of Micrometeorites”
Rain water will be collected in order to obtain micrometeorite pieces that are falling to the Earth’s surface, and chemical composition analysis will be conducted on the collected micrometeorites. This project will focus on metal micrometeorites, as they can easily be isolated by strong magnets and analyzed using chemical instruments at University of New Haven. As an outreach effort, collection devices will be duplicated for K-12 students to collect micrometeorites from locations in the greater New Haven area. This process will expose students to STEM related work, augment their space knowledge, and hopefully encourage their STEM interests.

WeSaam Lepak
University of Hartford
“Investigating the Acoustic Performance of Additively Manufactured Reeds as an Acoustic Liner in Aircraft Engines”
The noise emission from airplanes is reduced by coating the interior of the jet engine with an acoustic liner to absorb sound. NASA has recently found that reeds can be used as an effective acoustic liner to absorb sound in the low frequency range whilst utilizing little weight, though the geometry has not yet been optimized to maximize acoustic absorption. This proposed research project will investigate the effect of diameter, orientation, variability, and spacing of reeds to optimize acoustic absorption. Such research will decrease environmental noise from airplanes, aligning with NASA’s strategic mission to improve humanity’s quality of life.

Neha Pasnoori
University of Bridgeport
“Cooperative Intrusion Detection System for the Internet-of-WSNs Using Satellite Link Communications”
The Internet of Wireless Sensor Networks (IoWSN) consists of many sensors communicating through satellites. The network collects data from remote areas, which will be used to help science labs located in space. However, due to the limited computational capabilities and battery lifetime of sensors, applications need to be judicious in using resources, which makes it difficult to implement Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS). The objective of this project is to devise an IDS implementation method for integrated space station and satellites to control IoWSNs. With this proposed method, unnecessary communications can be substantially reduced, and the performance, security, and lifetime of the IoWSNs will improve.

Benjamin Rumrill
Eastern Connecticut State University
“The Effect of Microgravity on the Growth and Function of Neural Cells”
In 2015, scientists discovered that spaceflight could lead to cognitive deficits, due to the inhibition of neural stem cell differentiation (Blaber et al., 2015). The purpose of this research is to test for changes in the production of neural stem cells ability to replicate and differentiate, when grown in simulated microgravity compared to normal conditions. The working hypothesis is that microgravity experienced during spaceflight, impairs the ability of neural stem cells to reproduce and differentiate. If the production of neural cells is affected by microgravity, then it may explain the cognitive deficits found in astronauts after spaceflight.


Faculty STEM Education Research

Milagros Castillo-Montoya
University of Connecticut
“College Instructors Learning to Teach Subject Matter to Socially Diverse Students”
College and university instructors are teaching increasingly diverse college students-with little or no preparation, particularly within the STEM fields. Through an embedded case study of 10 college instructors, this project seeks to understand how faculty, including those in STEM, learn to teach their subjects in ways that enhance diverse students’ academic learning  by connecting the subject matter to students’ lives. Preliminary findings show the STEM faculty grapple with knowing how to make substantive connections between their students’ lives and the content of their disciplines. Findings have implications for the teaching and learning of undergraduate education, particularly in STEM fields.


Faculty STEM Education Research

Geillan Aly
University of Hartford
“Field Trip to National Museum of Mathematics”

Ryan Munden
Fairfield University
“STEM Outreach Through Robotics Service Learning”


Undergraduate Scholarship

Basel Alnajjar
University of Connecticut

Lauren Atkinson
Eastern Connecticut State University

Cameron Bopp
Central Connecticut State University

Leah Lansdowne
University of New Haven

Samuel Nguyen
Fairfield University

Hetal Patel
University of Connecticut


Community College Transfer Scholarship

Sarah Douyard
University of Connecticut

Jonathan Stanford
University of New Haven


Community College Scholarship

Hector Navarro
Naugatuck Valley Community College


Project Grant

Sean Coughlan
Trinity College
“Biomimetic Autonomous Underwater Vehicle”

Christina Ficaro
Fairfield University
“Portable Solar Powered Desalination Unit”

Ryan Hyatt
University of Connecticut
“AIAA Rocketry”

Arkid Koni
Central Connecticut State University
“CCSU Lunar Exploration Club”

Alex Laferriere
Trinity College
“Biomimetic Autonomous Underwater Vehicle”

Thomas Moroski
Fairfield University
“Precision Adhesive Application”

Jordan Rippe
University of New Haven
“Understanding the Enzymatic Mechanism of TET2 Proteins for Leukemia Studies Using QM/MM Molecular Dynamics Simulation”


Student Travel

Ryan Adler-Levine
Wesleyan University

Carly Balskus
Eastern Connecticut State University

Sophia Flury
Wesleyan University

Melissa Luna
Wesleyan University