NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC) is pleased to announce the recipients of its Spring 2022 Call for Proposals. Award recipients include 14 faculty members and 21 undergraduate/graduate students, and are from 13 NASA CTSGC academic affiliate member institutions. Below are the names of all recipients of the Undergraduate/Graduate Grants, Scholarships, and Faculty Grants. 

Congratulations to the Spring 2022 NASA Connecticut Space Grant award recipients!

Student Awards

Graduate Research

Bjorn Larsen
University of Connecticut
Enhancing the search for a gravitational wave background using custom noise

A signature of the nHz gravitational wave background has been manifesting in pulsar timing array datasets, suggesting a detection of the background may be imminent. In order to make this detection, noise from e.g. the interstellar medium must be mitigated in each pulsar. We will therefore create a custom noise modeling framework for the upcoming International Pulsar Timing Array data release 3. Our goals are aligned with NASA under the Science Mission Directorate, as a detection of the gravitational wave background will lead to new understanding about supermassive black holes and the cosmological implications of gravitational waves.

Elias Oakes
University of Connecticut
Are GMCs real? Measuring the virial parameter at high resolution in NGC 253

Although molecular clouds are commonly invoked as fundamental structures in the interstellar medium, the degree to which interstellar molecular gas is organized into discrete, bound structures remains unclear. I propose to address this via a multiscale analysis of extremely high resolution ALMA 12CO(2-1) observations on a 1.3×1.3 kpc2 field of the nearby galaxy NGC 253. I will use dendrograms to analyze the hierarchy of molecular gas on scales from 5 pc to 1 kpc, investigating the scale dependence of gravitational boundedness, gas turbulence, and angular momentum. These results will have important implications to help bridge our understanding of the Milky Way and other galaxies.

Andrew Pace
University of Connecticut
Implementation of Filtered Laser Rayleigh Scattering for Select Liquid Fuels

This project directly relates to NASA Taxonomy Area 01 (TX01: Propulsion Systems). This project will analyze highly turbulent premixed flames, a key part of propulsion and propulsion applications. While high turbulence is common in many propulsion applications, an understanding of flame interactions with high turbulence is still lacking. This project will contribute to a better understanding of these flame-turbulent flow interactions using key jet fuels (ethanol, toluene and n-dodecane). The experimental data created will be provided for public use and help fulfill the currently existing knowledge gap for the aforementioned liquid fuels.

Undergraduate Research Grant

Kevin Chen
Discovery and Characterization of IR-induced Functional Micropeptides

The mechanisms mediating the mammalian response to ionizing radiation (IR) downstream of the p53 tumor suppressor pathway have been studied extensively. Recently, micropeptides, encoded in erroneously annotated noncoding transcripts, have added a novel and unexpected layer of regulation to numerous biological functions, including the cellular response to stress. This project aims to discover and characterize functional micropeptides that are induced by p53 in response to IR and mediate the outcomes of the cellular response to stress. This work will extend the goal of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to uncover biological mechanisms in response to the space environment.

Amelia Geist
University of Connecticut
Experimental Validation of the Mechanical Stiffness of 3D-Printed Tubular Lattices

The goal of this project is to design, fabricate and mechanically test 3D-printed truss lattice lattices with tubular struts with the objective of determining the functionality. These tubular lattice structures will be compared to the performance of lattice structures with solid struts and eventually compared to computational data from prior research. These findings show that tubular strut-lattices have superior weight-to-stiffness ratio than solid strut-lattices. These findings will have a direct impact for the design of space structures; lattices offer tailored functionality along with low weight. These can be used for structures which support satellites or instruments, space vehicles, and potentially for the use of planetary exploration.

Nathan Green
University of Hartford

Vibration syndrome is a disease where the feeling in the nerves is lost because of exposure to large amounts of unregulated vibrations. The purpose of the proposed research is to determine if the human nervous system is more sensitive to linear vibrations or perpendicular vibrations. Furthermore, the research will state which type causes more harm over time. Both types of vibrations will be created with a series of rotating DC motors inside of a 3D printed rectangular prism. A deformation sensitive resistor will be placed around the device and measured continuously to determine the force of vibrations for both types. The impulse of the vibrations will be found to determine the time dependence of the various modes of vibration. Whichever mode of vibration causes a higher force and impulse will define the degrees of freedom that tools, machines, and devices should vibrate in, and how long those vibrations should be allowed to persist to avoid vibration syndrome.

Samuel Marcus
Wesleyan University
Digital Characterization of Fractures in Deglaciated Valleys in Order to Predict Subglacial Fracture

I aim to better understand and quantify a relationship between fracture patterns and geometry in deglaciated valleys. In late summer of 2022 I will travel to a recently deglaciated area of a U-shaped valley and collect images of a cross section of the deglaciated section of the valley. I will attempt to identify a relationship between fracture patterns and topography in the valley, and if I am able to quantify such a relationship, I plan to use machine learning to attempt to predict fractures below anthropocene trimline using data from above anthropocene trimline.

Student Project Grant

Alexandros Cooke-Politikos
University of Hartford
Metamaterial Lens Design and 3D-Printing Fabrication for Compact Radio

For this project we will design and construct, via 3D-printing, a metamaterial flat lens to be fitted with our radio horn telescope. An initial scaled design will be created to work in the 10.5 GHz band which will be put through rigorous testing and characterization before scaled to operate at 1.42 GHz and attached to the radio horn telescope waveguide. The metamaterial lens will improve resolution, increase signal to noise, and allow for a more compact horn design. This will promote NASA-related research and continue to solidify a collaborative relationship with the University of Hartford’s multiscale metamaterial research group.

Derek Gaudino
University of New Haven
Aerosol Science and Its Application in Wildfire Detection

The proposed project is to design a wildfire smoke detection device that utilizes the principles of optics to measure aerosol optical depth of particulate matter within the air. This can be achieved through the combined use of LEDs or light emitting diodes, and photodiodes. This device could decrease detection time for wildfires, which would allow for earlier suppression and burn control measures to be taken. It would also help decrease the amount of damage done to the environment, atmosphere, and potentially save lives and property in the process.

Gianluca Mazzi
Central Conecticut State University
Effect of Processing Parameters on Mechanical Behavior and Structure of FDM Printed Polylactic Acid and Carbon Fiber Polylactic Acid Composites

Fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3-D printing will be applied for development of structural net/near net shapes using polylactic acid (PLA), a monolithic polymer and fiber or particle reinforced PLA composites. Experimental printing parameters will be varied to maximize the uniformity and strength of PLA and composite PLA. Printed samples will be evaluated for axial tension properties, microstructure, density, and other analytical methods to thoroughly characterize the printed polymer and polymer composite. Results of this work are intended to progress the applicability of FDM 3-D printing for structural material development.

Student Travel Grant

Derik Walter
Central Connecticut State University
Travel to the 2022 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition Conference in Columbus, Ohio

The objective of attending the International Mechanical Engineering Congress & Exposition (IMECE) conference, from October 30th to November 3rd, is to present our senior capstone project and learn from fellow engineers about ways to improve our design. Our project is the design, manufacturing and testing of a guard for a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) to improve the efficiency of the turbine. Three guards were designed to test how the distance of the guard and angle of attack affect the rotational speed of the turbine. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is used to test their effects on the turbine’s efficiency. The most efficient guard design was chosen for prototyping and made from Polylactic Acid (PLA). After the prototype was tested and design changes made as necessary, the model was scaled up to full size and attached to the new turbine frame. Using an Arduino microcontroller, the output voltage from the generator was measured and converted to revolutions per minute (RPM). As students in the future continue with our work, we want to provide them with as many resources as possible to help spark their own sense of creativity and innovation. Continuing to help students explore green energy will lead to wind turbines with increased efficiency. The IMECE community would be the perfect resource to learn more about green energy and ways we can improve our design. Our goal is to learn from other professional engineers and network to further our careers as engineers.


Undergraduate Scholarship

Paige Diciccio
University of Hartford

Bhawana Joshi
Central Connecticut State University

Alberto Labrada
University of Bridgeport

John O’Connell
Eastern Connecticut State University

Seth Utter
University of Connecticut

Roland Van Duine
Central Connecticut State University

Community College Transfer Scholarship

Nathan Breiling
Central Connecticut State University

Community College Scholarship

Joey Gonzalez
Norwalk Community College

Omkar Newland
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Gabriel Santos DeMelo
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Faculty Awards

Faculty Research Grant

Pierre Christian
Fairfield University
Black Holes in Virtual Reality

This project proposes to create a virtual reality (VR) environment that mimics real life black holes with computer simulations. The VR environment will accurately simulate the trajectories of objects hurled towards the black hole, and will be directly controlled with VR motion controls. The resulting VR environment will not only be beneficial for pedagogical purposes, but also be accurate enough to be utilized for professional black hole research. By removing the barrier of entry for researchers to utilize black hole numerical simulation codes in their research, this project is relevant to the Astrophysics Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate.

Omar Faruk Emon
University of New Haven
3D Printing of Functional Polymers for Sensing Applications

Additive manufacturing could be employed to realize need-specific electronics. The goal of this project is to develop a 3D printing solution (system and materials) for fabricating polymer-based flexible sensors. The standard sensors come with predefined geometries, mechanical properties, and sensitive ranges. Commercial 3D printers generally do not support functional polymers for electronics and, more importantly, customization in materials to vary the specifications. This research will provide a pathway to “make what is needed” instead of “work with what is available”. Therefore, it is believed to be crucial for NASA’s space-related applications by enabling on-demand fabrication, adjustment, and repair of electronics.

Scott Graves
Southern Connecticut State University
Osprey’s view of a Curious Natural Perched Beach, Guilford, CT – µUAS Aerial Mapping

The “Osprey’s view of a Curious Natural Perched Beach” project combines low altitude small Unmanned Aerial Systems (μUAS) mapping with traditional on-ground Transit Surveys to produce high-resolution geo-referenced orthomosaic image/maps and 3D landform visualizations of an important, yet previously unexplained, natural perched beach in a suburban setting that appears to be in continual landward migration driven by storm surge over wash events. The project activities are in line with NASA’s strategic goals including use of Remote Sensing and Earth Observations to enhance our understanding of the environment while providing information that helps in planning and stewardship of the coastal environment.

Naser Haghbin
Fairfield University
Developing a Human Blood Vessel using 3D Bioprinting and Cell Culturing techniques

3D bioprinting technology will have an essential role in the future of NASA space missions to print human tissues for the health of astronauts. This research will design and fabricate a blood vessel that produces a volumetric flow rate. We develop a 3D CAD model in a cylinder, which acts as a mold. Then, the bioink and cells mixture is 3D printed inside the cylinder mold and a spherical mold. We will then use microscopy to examine the growth of cells in the blood vessel’s muscular and vascular layer.

Kristine Horvat
University of New Haven
Exploring Oxygen and Fuel Options for Mars Using Different Algae Growth Conditions

Mars exploration is necessary to determine its hospitality to human living. As a result, many challenges must be overcome, including determining ways to produce oxygen and fuel, which are important to the Space Technology Mission Directorate. In this study, Chlorella algae will be grown under different pressure, temperature, and gas-phase composition conditions. The monitoring of the gas-phase composition and algae volume over time will help determine the oxygen production rate, algae growth rate, and ability to produce oil under varying conditions. Results will provide evidence to the feasibility of growing Chlorella on Mars as an oxygen and fuel source.

Goli Nossoni
University of New Haven
Moonglomerete for Construction on the Moon

In the past years, most researches in NASA and elsewhere focused on making a type of geopolymer concrete for moon construction with a different binder than cement paste due to the lack of water and cement on the moon. The goal was that the new concrete should be placed using the new technology of 3D printing. However, researchers are still trying to discover a feasible binder. Even a small amount of binder transported from earth may costs millions of dollars. Since the focus was on finding this binder, researchers tried to implement the proposed solution of 3D printing some sort of non-hydraulic Portland cement concrete rather than addressing the basic problem statement. The problem statement is “construction materials on the moon with integrous material with minimum transportation from earth.” The proposed research plans to construct bricks from moon materials and energy generated on the moon with no need of any materials from earth. Instead of being 3D printed, the bricks will be made using a robotic manufacturing process. The new material uses for manufacturing bricks is called Moonglomerete, which solely uses rocks already present on the moon. Although the proposed material is very different than concrete, it still can be classified a sort of “mooncrete” where larger lighter colored moon rocks (anorthosite) will be embedded in a binder made from smaller darker rocks (basalt) that are molten to form bricks. The structure of these bricks are compatible with conglomerate rocks on earth. Basalt has a lower melting point than anorthosite. The energy required to melt dust particles of basalt will be supplied using relatively small Fresnel lenses. The temperature at the focal points of the lenses can reach more then 2000°C on the earth, which can melt most rocks in less than a minute.

Rahul Singhal
Central Connecticut State University
Synthesis and characterization of MnCuO and rGO/MnCuO materials for supercapacitor applications.

We will synthesize and characterize the materials for supercapacitors to store high specific energy. The proposed work is related to NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD). We will synthesize MnCuO and rGO/MnCuO by hydrothermal method at various temperature. The synthesized materials will then be physically characterized using X-ray diffraction spectroscopy, differential scanning calorimetry, thermogravimetric analysis, scanning electron microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy. The electrochemical characterizations such as cyclic voltammetry, charge-discharge, rate performances, and cycleability will be carried out in a three electrode system using the electrodes of the synthesized materials, Pt. foil, Ag/AgCl as working, counter, and reference electrodes, respectively.

Qian Yang
University of Connecticut
Predicting Melting Point of Eutectic Mixtures with Graph Neural Networks

Molten salt mixtures are promising candidates for use as electrolytes in new battery technologies, with applications ranging from space vehicles in harsh environments such as Venus to electric-powered aircraft. Prediction of the eutectic melting points for these materials is a key technical challenge. We propose utilizing graph neural networks to train data-driven models for prediction of eutectic melting temperatures. We will curate a benchmark dataset by combining a large database of molten salt eutectics with structural and other feature information. A fast machine learning model would pave the way for future high-throughput screening of eutectic mixtures for battery design.

Guoan Zheng
University of Connecticut
Miniaturized optofluidic ptychography for terrestrial and astrobiological research

We aim to develop a miniaturized optofluidic ptychography platform for the search of micron-size organisms and crystals in perennial springs in Peyto Lake in Banff National Park. The remarkable simplicity of the proposed device allows the construction of high-resolution microscopes that can detect and capture the behavior of microscopic organisms and microparticles in difficult terrestrial environments. The possibility for designs that have low weight and that can survive vibrations and shocks encountered during rocket launch as well as landing on a destination moon or planet makes the proposed device a particularly strong candidate for space mission and astrobiological studies.

Faculty Project Grant

Barbara Murdoch
Eastern Connecticut State University
Publishing undergraduate research in peer-reviewed journals

This project seeks to fund the cost of publishing two research manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, each the result of undergraduate research and previously funded by research grants from the Connecticut Space Grant Consortium. Publication of our novel results will disseminate our findings to national and international audiences and demonstrate the exceptional research capacity of undergraduate researchers. Our research explores the diversity and antibiotic production of the scorpion microbiome and has implications for NASA’s directorate of Human Exploration, that requires having the knowledge of microbial diversity and antibiotic arsenal required to eradicate bacterial infections, in space and on earth.

Faculty STEM Ed Programming

Donna Hylton
Middlesex Community College
Adventures in Learning STEM GEMS Camp

Adventures in Learning STEM Camp seeks to get children excited about learning by presenting opportunities to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math in creative and innovative ways. Campers learn about the marvels of science through scientific experiments, experience computer technology, learn the wonders of math, and the value of engineering. This year our camp will once again take on our newly adopted format. We will take children on expeditions around the City of Middletown to discover STEM GEMS (Great Educational Middletown Sites) and learn how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics impact our lives every day. After spending years behind a screen in virtual classes, the children will enjoy time outdoor and visiting STEM locations.

Faculty STEM Ed Research

John Drazan
Fairfield University
Expanding Access to Informal STEM Enrichment Through Sports

We seek to evaluate the efficacy of using sports as a venue for informal STEM enrichment among underrepresented youth. We will host a one-week summer research experience at Fairfield University for 16 high school students. There will be two parallel programs, one focused on traditional engineering research and one focused biomechanics in sports. We will compare the demographics, starting STEM interest, and ending STEM interest of participants in both programs. We hypothesize that sports biomechanics research will engage a more diverse set of students with lower starting STEM interest relative to the traditional engineering research program.

Faculty-Student Summer Research

Haoyu Wang
Central Connecticut State University
In-Space Robotic Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing through Robotic Teleoperation and Just-In-Time Data

This research will contribute to NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. The goal of the research is to develop an intelligent remote-control system for robots to conduct in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing operations using virtual reality and augmented reality to get control commands from the user and allow the user to visualize just-in-time data analytic and real-time video feed of the operation site. Cloud computing and Internet of Things (IOT) will be used to acquire, store, and process the data from multiple sensors at the operation site. Deep learning will be used to build AI models for intelligent human-robot interfaces.

High Altitude Ballooning/Cubesat (HAB/C)

Chong Qiu
University of New Haven
High-altitude Ballooning with Portable Ozone Monitors in Preparation for Stratospheric Ozone Measurements during the 2023 Solar Eclipse

An interdisciplinary team of engineering seniors will select a portable ozone monitor for both ground and stratospheric ozone monitoring. The team will build a proper housing for the ground ozone measurements. The team will also build necessary power and data transmission accessories for the ozone monitor in order to assemble a complete payload of a high-altitude balloon for stratospheric ozone measurements. The engineering solutions in this project will be used for stratospheric ozone measurements during the 2023 solar eclipse. The project’s objectives are well-aligned with the atmospheric science and planetary science missions of the NASA Science Mission Directorate.