Past Award Recipients – Faculty

The tabs below include information of past faculty recipients organized by term

Spring 2018 Award Recipients

Faculty Research

Rebecca Kramer
Yale University
“Bagbots: Using Robotic Skins for Deployable Self-Constructing Soft Robots”
The ideal robotic system for space and extraterrestrial applications would be one that is lightweight and compact during transport, but able to adapt its stiffness, structure, and mass for task performance. The goal of the proposed project is to realize deployable self-constructing robots (bagbots) based on robotic skins that ingest and manipulate material. A bagbot will be transported as a lightweight system, but will perform forceful tasks by self-constructing a body made from clay or regolith surface materials. Bagbots are optimal for exploration of unknown environments, which directly contributes to NASA’s strategic goal to expand human knowledge through scientific discoveries.

Corey O’Hern
Yale University
“Using Geometric Cohesion to Make Strong, Light-Weight Materials”
Entangled granular media such as u-shaped particles can be packed into low-density, jammed structures that resist compression and extension. Prior work has shown that these materials can be used as freestanding, load-bearing structures under gravity. Using experimentally validated computer simulations, we will demonstrate the existence of geometric cohesion in zero-gravity environments, and study the effect of variations in particle shape, friction coefficient, and bending rigidity on the mechanical properties of geometrically cohesive packings. We will develop the capability to program materials with a given strength that can be efficiently disassembled through vibration, and reassembled for the next application.

Christina Zito
University of New Haven
“Evaluating the Impact of Endothelial Cell Derived Exosomes on Skeletal Muscle Viability and Homeostasis”
Prolonged exposure to microgravity results in skeletal muscle atrophy. The aim of this proposal is to study how different cell types regulate skeletal muscle homeostasis. Exosomes are small extracellular vesicles that carry specific cargo to neighboring cells and tissues where they affect protein function, gene expression, and ultimately cell viability and cell function. We will study whether exosomes derived from endothelial cells play a role in regulating skeletal homeostasis. A better understanding of the molecular pathways involved in regulating skeletal muscle viability will help in the development of new treatments for the prevention or quick reversal of muscle atrophy.

Faculty STEM Education Programming

Donna Hylton
Middlesex Community College
“Adventures in Learning – STEM Camp”

Faculty Travel

Ali Senejani
University of New Haven

December 2017 Award Recipients

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.

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 Programming

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

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


Spring 2017 Award Recipients

Faculty Research Grant

Abdelshakour Abuzneid
University of Bridgeport
“Computer-Aided Simulator and Benchmark Testbed for the Internet of WSNs Using Satellite Link Communications”
The Internet of Wireless Sensor Networks (IoWSN) consists of many sensors and collects data from remote areas, which are 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 of the resource. The contributions of this research will include the implementation of an application to integrate space station and satellites to control IoWSN efficiently. The IoWSN will be investigated and built using satellite link communications. This project aims to alleviate unnecessary communications and to improve the performance, security and lifetime.  Such networks will be used to improve the life of earth by applying this technology in many applications.

Paul Slaboch
University of Hartford
“Effect of Aft Rotor on Forward Blade Wake in Counter Rotating Open Rotors”
Counter rotating open rotor (CROR) propulsion systems produce a large operating efficiency increase over conventional aircraft engines. The noise radiated by the CROR limits the functionality of the system. A significant portion of the noise is generated by the ingestion of forward rotor blade wakes by the aft rotor. This project will describe the effects of the aft rotor on the forward blade wakes through detailed analysis of an experimental dataset acquired by NASA Glenn Research Center. These effects can be directly correlated to the far field acoustics that prohibit this technology from being utilized in commercial aviation.

Xingguo Xiong
University of Bridgeport
“Balloon/Drone-based Aerial Platforms for Remote Particulate Matter Pollutant Monitoring”
Detailed data about distribution of Particulate Matter (PM) pollutants and their diffusion are essential to evaluate their effects on human health and environment. This research aims at developing balloon and drone based aerial platforms for remote PM pollutant monitoring. Compared to ground-mounted PM sensors, balloon/drone based aerial platforms cover much wider areas with better flexibility.  They can monitor remote, dangerous or difficult-to-access locations. Such platforms can be used not only for PM monitoring but also for studying climate change, ecological rehabilitation, among others.

Faculty STEM Education

Seth Redfield
Wesleyan University
“A Public Lecture on Astronomy at Wesleyan University”

Fall 2016 Award Recipients


Faculty Research

Brendan Cunningham
Eastern Connecticut State University
“The Efficient Use of Space Orbit”
This project looks at the inefficiencies with the use of earth orbit and how launch satellites are decided by satellite operators. There will be an analysis of the strategies satellite operators use in response to allocation mechanisms that may allow the satellite services to improve.

Andrea Kwaczala
University of Hartford
“Using Acoustic Waves as a Therapeutic Tool to Mitigate Bone Loss During Spaceflight”
A device will be developed that can eliminate microgravity-induced bone loss effects. It will be applying acoustic waves to the growth of stem cells in vitrowith the use of biosensors, automation and telemedicine.

Jillian Smith-Carpenter
Fairfield University
“Characterization of Dithiolane-Modified Self-Assembly Structures”
Dithiolane-modified peptides will be synthesized, purified, and characterized. This will allow the relationship between pH and the supramolecular peptide self-assembly structures to be investigated.

Bryan Weber
University of Connecticut
“Measurement of Chemical Pathways During Autoignition at High Pressure”
A system with the ability to measure species fractions during autoignition will be developed. Gas samples will be collected by the system from a rapid compression machine at a high pressure. Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry will allow a species will be identified and quantified.

Faculty STEM Education Research

Nancy DeJarnette
University of Bridgeport
“Children’s Engineering K-5 Initiative”

Faculty STEM Education Programming

Alison Draper
Trinity College
“Tech Savvy 2017 Conference for Girls”

Faculty Travel

Amanda Harper-Leatherman
Fairfield University



Summer 2016 Award Recipients


Faculty-Student Summer Research

Luyi Sun
University of Connecticut
“Nanocoatings With Outstanding Thermal Insulation and Flame Retardancy for Aerospace Applications”
“In the summer of 2016, three community college students and one University of Connecticut (UCONN) undergraduate student worked in my lab. The students worked on a group of nanocoatings containing a high concentration of well-aligned nanosheets. Because of unique micro-structure, such nanocoatings exhibit outstanding mechanical, barrier, optical, and flame retardant properties. The four students were divided into two groups, with one focused on flame retardant nanocoatings, the other on iridescent nanocoatings with potential applications in sensors, etc. Both did a great job, and are expected to publish a paper late this year based on their research results produced this summer.”

Theodore Sussman
University of Hartford
“Infrastructure Condition Assessment With Space Based Lidar”
“This grant provided a unique opportunity to explore remote sensing data available from satellites and other space vehicles. This data can be very useful for infrastructure monitoring applications and gaining experience with this data was a valuable experience. The initial goal of the research was to identify the position of a bridge on the University of Hartford campus and verify changes in the positioning of the bridge from the satellite data with on the ground measurements. Instead, the students obtained data from each available system and developed images of the University of Hartford campus in attempt to locate the bridge.”

Haoyu Wang
Central Connecticut State University
“Tele-Operating Collaborative Robot With Virtual Reality for Repair Jobs in Space”
“A system was designed and prototyped to tele-operate a collaborative industrial robot with a virtual reality (VR) device. The VR device used in the project was VIVE from HTC, and the collaborative industrial robot chosen was YUMI dual arm robot from ABB. A software was also developed to realize the control from VIVE on YUMI, which was written in combination of C#, C++, and RAPID languages. This work built solid foundation for future research in VR control of industrial robot on repair jobs in space. It also has broad potential applications on earth, such as long distance repair and maintenance.”

Roman Zajac
University of New Haven
“Assessing Salt Marsh Change Using Low Level Aerial Imagery”
“Salt marshes around the world are exhibiting marked erosion, loss of area, and shifts in their component habitats, thus compromising their ecological value. This project used low-level aerial imagery obtained from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, to quantify elements of salt marsh landscape structure that are indicators of salt marsh change (SMC). Tracking and characterizing these mechanisms of change within ecosystems is a key element of NASA’s strategic plan in order to advance our understanding of Earth systems.”

Peter LeMaire
Central Connecticut State University
“Lithium Ion Cathode Preparation and Characterization”
“This project is part of a larger research focus in the area of electrochemical energy storage devices, (e.g. Li ion rechargeable batteries and supercapacitors), in the Department of Physics & Engineering Physics (PEP) at CCSU. In this project, the students synthesized various non-stoichiometric combinations of  LiMn2-xFexO4;  0 ≤ x ≤ 0.5 cathode materials by the sol-gel method. Along the way, they learned valuable research techniques in the preparation of materials, the stability of these materials using DSC/TGA, and X-Ray diffraction for the study of the structure of materials.”


Spring 2016 Award Recipients


Community College Quadcopter Challenge

Douglas Hoffman
Northwestern Connecticut Community College
Quad Squad Teams A and B

Stella Litwinowicz
Housatonic Community College
Housatonic Flyers

Ren Sharma
Naugatuck Valley Community College
NV Fly High

Jakob Spjut
Quinebaug Valley Community College
QQ (Quinebaug Quadcopter)

Faculty Collaboration Grant

Dr. James Greenwood
Wesleyan University
“Chondrule Formation Experiments”

Faculty Research Grant

Dr. Nidal Al-Masoud
Central Connecticut State University
“Omni-Directional Robotic Rover: Wheel-Soft Soil Interaction, Control, and Agility”
In this project, theoretical analysis along with experimental validation of a new approach to enhance the maneuverability and traction of a smart robot on uneven, soft soil similar to the terrains encountered in planetary exploration missions.  Based on obtained research, the future control scheme of this project will include stability analysis, motion control, obstacle avoidance, and adaptability to terrain topography.

Dr. Kagya Amoako
University of New Haven
“Developing Anti-Bacterial Surfaces for Preventing ‘Sick’ Spacecrafts”
This study aims to develop new surfaces that can fight off bacteria contamination in spacecrafts.  The ultimate goal of this project is to develop nitric oxide (NO) releasing polydimethylsiloxane polymer sheets that are able to release NO for days to weeks.  Such material will not only impact antibacterial surface development but also thrombosis, blood-contacting medical devices, and foreign body response research.

Dr. Richard Christenson
University of Connecticut
“Dynamic Load Testing of a Spacecraft Parachute Deployment System Using Real-Time Hybrid Substructuring”
This project will demonstrate a new methodology for physical experimentation of spacecraft components subjected to shock and vibration, namely Real-Time Hybrid Substructuring (RTHS).  This new method has the potential to reduce costs and allow for system level performance to be more accurately tested earlier in the component design process.  This project is highly relevant to NASA strategic goals to improve the technology of component testing of Parachute Deployment System for Mars exploration and is anticipated to lead to funding from NASA to further develop RTHS test capabilities for spacecraft shock and vibration testing.

Dr. Amanda Harper-Leatherman
Fairfield University
“Incorporating Aerogels Into Electrochemical Glucose Biosensors”
A biosensor is an analytical device that that can be used to detect analytes relevant to medicine, the environment, and food.  The effects of incorporating glucose oxidase into aerogels for use in biosensors for glucose detection was studied to see if the large porosity and surface area of aerogels would help to improve the overall biosensor performance and signal.  It was the team’s hope to enhance understanding of glucose electrochemical biosensing with the ultimate goal of helping in the future development of biosensors for other clinically or industrially relevant targets including any relevant to human activity in space.

Dr. Andre Taylor
Yale University
“Flexible Carbon Nanotube/Silicon Solar Cells”
This project proposes to use materials chemistry, micro/nano fabrication techniques to develop flexible solar cells that minimize weigh without the sacrifice in power conversion efficiency.  The research plan includes synthesizing organic and organometallic molecules that will facilitate the construction of networks for the dissociation of excitons, collection of carriers and the absorption of photons, improve the area and efficiency of CNT/Si hybrid solar cells, and demonstrate CNT/Si solar cells that are flexible.  These research efforts could improve energy generation for water recovery, energy storage, and waste reclamation that are all critical challenges for human space missions.

Faculty STEM Education Programming

Dr. Ryan McCulloch
University of Bridgeport
“NGSS K-12 Teachers Workshop”

Dr. Ryan Munden
University of Fairfield
“Fairfield/ACCESS Enhanced Summer STEAM Camp”

Dr. Seth Redfield
Wesleyan University
“A Public Lecture on Astronomy at Wesleyan University”

Dr. Eileen Roark
Manchester Community College
“Introducing Students to STEM Careers Student Conference”

Faculty Travel

Dr. Jani Pallis
University of Bridgeport
CSBF in Palestine, Texas (for HASP)


Fall 2015 Award Recipients


Faculty Research

Scott Graves
Southern Connecticut University
“Osprey’s View of Coastal Resiliency in Urban Environments (Osprey CRUE)”
The Osprey CRUE Project (Osprey’s View of Coastal Resilience in Urban Environments) provided a unique opportunity to further develop our Research Agenda in µUAS deployment for mapping coastal habitats. The project is/was a perfect test-bed for furthering our research in monitoring coastal habitat, and in providing both the time and resources to prove the viability and utility of µUAS for this unique low altitude remote sensing of coastal environments.

Baikun Li
University of Connecticut
“Conversion of Human Wastes to Electricity in Microbial Fuel Cells: Towards Self-Sustaining Life Support Systems”
The objective of this project is to develop a novel multiple-anode/cathode MFC (MAC-MFC) as a simple compact on-site human urine treatment system and electricity population device.  By using electrogenic bacteria indigenous in human wastes, the proposed MAC-MFC system can enhance biofilm growth on electrode surface, accelerate the electron transfer, and integrate multiple MFC units in a single unit to achieve high power output at a small footprint.  With numerous MFC applications from NASA’s standpoint, the novel MAC-MFC system is expected to solve accumulation of waste and generate electricity on long-term space missions.

Julian Norato
University of Connecticut
“A Geometry Projection Method for the Topology Optimization of a Skin-Space Frame System”
A computational method for the design of rigid lunar and planetary habitats made of a space frame covered by a constant-thickness skin. A methodology was developed whereby an analytical geometry description of a set of bars is projected onto a fixed finite element grid for the topology optimization of 2-dimensional frames. This project will significantly advance this formulation to encompass the above requirements for habitat design by accommodating 3-dimensional frames, incorporating a constant-thickness skin, enforcing stress constraints, and incorporating the design-dependent distributed loads.

Nimmi Sharma
Central Connecticut University
“Earth Atmosphere Studies Using NASA-type Micro Pulse Laser Radar and CCD Camera Lidar”
The project will advance understanding of the impact of aerosols (small particulates suspended in the atmosphere) on the earth’s climate and help improve health by developing methods to monitor and track aerosol pollutants.  By combining three different types of instruments – a NASA-type Micro Pulse Lidar (MPL) system, sunphotometers and a unique CCD Camera Lidar (CLIDAR) system, the team will conduct experiments and data analysis to generate aerosol maps of how aerosol patterns change over time and altitude.  These aerosol maps will be useful for climate modelling, research/enforcement on air pollution and quality, studies of atmospheric transport and weather, and public policy-making.

Fu-Shang (John) Wei
Central Connecticut University
“Design & Test of a Scaled K-MAX Helicopter Using Universal Joints”
The goal of this research is to explore the possibility of increasing the helicopter operational envelop by changing the rotor shaft tilt angle without impacting the power and lift of the system. This is an important tradeoff design parameter for K-MAX intermeshing rotors. Bevel gears and universal joints are two different types of design which can be used to achieve the required rotor shaft tilt angle. This grant provides a research opportunity to work with Kaman helicopter, discuss with Kaman helicopter expert and prepare a presentation opportunity to the national technical society.

Faculty STEM Education Programming

Dr. Michele Dischino
Central Connecticut University
“Biomedical Engineering and Technology: The Power to Move”

Alison Draper
Trinity College
“CT Tech Savvy Conference 2015”

Amrys Williams
Wesleyan University
“Under Connecticut Skies”

Faculty STEM Education Research

Mary C. Arico
University of Hartford
“Creation of an Evaluation Tool for STEM Programming”

Faculty Travel

Wook-Sung Yoo
Fairfield University
47th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education in Memphis, TN