NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC) is pleased to announce the recipients of its early Spring 2024 Call for Proposals. Award recipients include 14 faculty members and 28 undergraduate/graduate students, and are from 15 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 2024 CT Space Grant award recipients!

Our next call for applications will begin 3/20/2024.

Faculty Awards

Curriculum Development Grant

Luz Amaya
Central Connecticut State University
Development of Undergraduate Level course for Numerical Methods for Engineering – ENGR 351

Numerical Methods for Engineering is a critical class which combines applications of mathematical concepts with computer programming. Currently, none of the Engineering programs at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) have this class in the curriculum. The aim of this project is to develop Numerical Methods for Engineering, which will introduce fundamental numerical techniques to solve a variety of engineering problems using two programming languages Matlab and Python. Development of this class aligns with the NASA Science Mission Directorate, since this will improve the involvement and exposure of engineering students to the analysis of real-life problems using numerical techniques and computer modeling.

Reza Sheikhi
University of Connecticut
Development of a Project-Based Learning Undergraduate Computational Fluid Dynamics Course

The main objective of this proposal is to develop a new Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) course to offer undergraduate students a practical, hands-on approach to problem-solving using a commercial CFD software. The course covers basic CFD principles with a strong emphasis on practical aspects of CFD analysis including verification and validation. Project-Based Learning is integrated into the curriculum, providing students an effective way to grasp the CFD concepts through a series of targeted projects. To conclude the course, students complete a final project, wherein they conduct a comprehensive CFD analysis of a practical engineering problem.

Faculty Project Grant

Djedjiga Belfadel
Fairfield University
Building Programmable, Affordable Drones for GPS-Denied Swarm Navigation Research and Education

This project aims to advance drone technology research and education at university programs by building customizable, cost-efficient drones optimized for accurate swarm navigation in environments lacking GPS. Each drone incorporates an extended Kalman Filter (EKF), an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), and optical flow sensors, ensuring precision in navigation. A pivotal element of their design is a programmable microcontroller, facilitating comprehensive testing and deployment of our autonomous navigation algorithms. This initiative aligns perfectly with NASA-CT’s objectives, serving both academic and research needs. Moreover, our budget-friendly strategy complements NASA’s Space Technology strategic priorities.

Faculty Research Grant

Robin Chataut
Quinnipiac University
Optimizing Physical Layer Security for 5G and Beyond Networks

This research project aims to advance the state-of-the-art in wireless security by developing innovative signal processing algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence applications, and security optimization techniques in the context of Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) systems for next-generation networks (5G and beyond). These advancements are crucial for maintaining secure and efficient communication in space exploration and beyond. The project aligns with NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) by contributing to the development of cutting-edge technologies that enhance space exploration and secure data transmission. The research outcomes will have a significant impact on technology, cybersecurity, and space technology fields, offering diverse career opportunities for both the research team and future professionals in related domains.

Matthew Graham
Eastern Connecticut State University
Unveiling Oyster Resilience: Harnessing Microbial Insights to Empower NASA’s Spacefaring Endeavors

Eastern oysters, Crassostrea virginica, thrive in diverse habitats from shallow to deep waters. By combining field research, cutting-edge DNA sequencing, and phylogenetic reconstruction, this study unlocks the secrets of their microbiomes, revealing the microbial signatures associated with their remarkable tolerance to temperature and salinity stress. By understanding these adaptations, we can inform the development of sustainable food production systems for challenging environments, including space-based ecosystems, and contribute to NASA’s Mission Directorates. Undergraduates will participate in all stages as they identify microbial symbionts and their evolutionary relationships within oyster populations across varying environmental conditions, cultivating a new generation of skilled scientists.

John Miecznikowski
Fairfield University
Synthesis and Characterization of ONO Cobalt(II) and Nickel(II) and Copper(I) Pincer Complexes

We seek to prepare and characterize cobalt(II), nickel(II), and copper(I) pincer complexes, which are potential catalysts for the reduction of aldehydes, the conversion of carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide and the reduction of protons to hydrogen gas, which will be of interest in space missions.  We are preparing cobalt(II), nickel(II), and copper(I) complexes with novel pincer ligands which coordinate to metals with oxygen, nitrogen, and oxygen donor atoms that are analogous to complexes we previously published.  Since I will be working with two students on this research, the project described herein will also help progress NASA’s science mission directorate.

Helen Poulos
Wesleyan University
Springpulse: Modeling Groundwater Discharge in Large Texas Springs Using Field Data, Remote Sensing, and Machine Learning

Groundwater springs provide lush oases for humans and wild species, but climate change and human development now threaten their integrity. Ecological monitoring is critical for sustainable springs management, and remote sensing offers tools for estimating real-time spring discharge. This project explores the potential of two remotely sensed moisture index products for predicting spring productivity, verified against a network of on-the-ground field sites in Texas. This proposal is directly related to the Water and Energy Cycle focus area of the NASA Science Mission Directorate through its integration of spring discharge data with high resolution imagery for monitoring and predicting groundwater discharge.

Karl Schmidt
Fairfield University
Behavioral and Neurobiological Impacts of Confinement

Confinement in restricting spaces, such as the environment during orbital and deep-space exploration, can be a source of stress with lasting impacts on behavior and neurobiology that extend beyond the stress exposure. This project will examine the effects of confinement stress on the behavioral and neurobiological effects of cocaine using rats and the potential for modulation with noradrenergic treatment. Rats will be administered clonidine or control prior to experiencing daily repeated confinement, repeated cocaine administration, or non-stressed control conditions. Subsequently, these rats will be challenged with cocaine and measured for sensitized locomotor responses. Behavioral sensitization responses (or in this case, cross-sensitization) are considered addiction-like phenotypes and would indicate confinement experience as increasing the risk for substance use disorders. Immediately following behavioral challenge, rats will be sacrificed and brains will be analyzed for drug-induced neuronal activity in regions known to regulate drug and stress responses. This project will be conducted with undergraduates receiving hands-on training in neuroscience.        

Jessica Smith
Central Connecticut State University
Exploring the Evolution of Microbial Electron Transport in Geobacter Sulfurreducens

This research focuses on elucidating electron transfer mechanisms to insoluble Fe(III) oxide in Geobacter sulfurreducens, offering insights into early Earth’s electron transport evolution. Previously, we engineered a strain of G. sulfurreducens with a simplistic pathway for electron transport at the extracellular surface. Building upon this work, the electron transport pathway in this strain will be further streamlined by removing redundant outer membrane cytochromes. Results will enhance our comprehension of Geobacter’s electron transfer capabilities, aligning with NASA’s Science Mission Directorate’s goal to understand life’s evolution, relevant to the search for life elsewhere and the coevolution of microbial communities shaping geochemical cycles.

Xiaoli Yang
Fairfield University
Cognitive Workload Analysis via Deep Learning with Emotion Regulation and Virtual Reality for Aeronautics Safety Application

Physiological sensing plays a crucial role in Aeronautics applications, specifically in addressing challenges related to the assessment of cognitive workload during activities like aircraft piloting and cyber monitoring. Within the realm of artificial intelligence, machine learning, particularly in the analysis of physiological data like EEG, takes center stage. This study proposes that incorporating elements such as emotion regulation, virtual reality, and deep learning can enhance the accuracy of cognitive workload assessments. This aligns with NASA’s Aeronautics Research Missions Directorate objectives.

Faculty/Student Research Grant

Brian Wells
University of Hartford
The University of Hartford Multiscale Metamaterial Undergraduate Student-Faculty Research Summer 2024

The proposed research project will be led by Professor Brian Wells at the Multiscale Metamaterial Research Laboratory of the University of Hartford. The project will consist of three overlapping areas of work. Firstly, we will develop and program an automated microwave optical research table. Secondly, we will design and fabricate out-of-plane beam steering devices. Lastly, we will investigate and design microwave and optical metalenses. The research being explored can significantly impact satellite communication, astronomy, and astrophysics, making it crucial for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). The project is set to last eight weeks during the summer of 2024. It will include the participation of two undergraduate students, one from the University of Hartford and the other from a two-year Community College.

Faculty STEM Education Programming Grant

Amal Abdel Raouf
Southern Connecticut State University
2nd Women in Bioinformatics Workshop

This proposal aims to support a regional Women in Bioinformatics Workshop with female leading researchers in the field as invited speakers.  The goal is to encourage women faculty and students to engage in research in this male-dominated field, although the workshop is open to participation and attendance for all genders. This interdisciplinary field brings together researchers from computer science, data science, statistics, biology, and biochemistry.  This proposal’s theme fits under NASA’s Science Mission directorate, specifically the Gene Lab.  This grant will provide the seed support for collaboration leading to NSF and NIH future funding.

Philip Gee
CT Community College Norwalk
Norwalk STEM Science Fair

Provide a science fair for local high school students to present their research in the STEM fields and to give a chance to the Science Students (both current and former) a chance to see the research that is going on in different fields of STEM.

Edward Moran
Wesleyan University
The 2024 Sturm Memorial Lecture

The Sturm Memorial Lecture, hosted by the Astronomy Department at Wesleyan University, brings to campus a renowned astrophysicist for a public lecture that inspires an audience of hundreds from Wesleyan and communities in the greater Middletown area.  Our 2024 speaker develops instrumentation to directly image exoplanets and is a world leader in the study of both exoplanets and objects composed of “degenerate” matter: brown dwarfs, white dwarfs, and neutron stars.  Her work is thus closely aligned with the aims of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, which supports technology development and related scientific exploration through its Astrophysics Program Area.

Graduate and Undergraduate Awards

Student Project Grant

John Chiodo
Fairfield University
The Electro-Pneumatic Air Shock Optimization System

This system enhances suspension performance in off-road vehicles that utilize airshocks. During vehicle operation, it allows for driver input and external monitoring, eliminating the need for manual adjustments. Integrating an onboard computer, pneumatics, and a user interface, the technology employs shock pressure values to optimize suspension performance. Tailored for performance-centric markets like off-road racing organizations and personal vehicles, the system aims to redefine operational performance. The technological advancement of the system reflects the NASA Science Mission Directorate, and the possible applications to extraterrestrial vehicles align with the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, developing systems to explore Lunar and Martian surfaces.

Student Travel Grant

Jacob Bowie
University of Connecticut
Travel Grant: Spaceflight Human Optimization and Performance Summit

Our recent CTSG funded study highlighted the efficacy of a minimal dose exercise protocol. Attendance at the Spaceflight Human Optimization and Performance Summit in Houston, Texas will allow access to experts in the field and their latest research findings to inform our further research objectives and design. This research will advance exercise countermeasures for cardiovascular and muscular fitness (NASA human research roadmap gaps A7 and M9, respectively). Additionally, this travel will support NASA strategic objectives 2.3 (maintain crew health and performance) and 1.3 (to ensure dissemination of NASA funded research).

Mary Clare Greenlees
Wesleyan University
Travel to the 55th Annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

The focus of my graduate work is the study of the weathering of montmorillonite under ambient pressure with Venus’s temperature and atmospheric composition conditions. This work is carried out to understand the consequences of weathering on visible and near-infrared spectroscopy to facilitate interpretations from future Venus missions. Thus, following NASA’s Science Mission Directorate for Planetary Science to “advance scientific knowledge of the Solar System’s origin and history.” I submitted an abstract to the 55th Annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference titled: “Extreme Weathering: An Investigation of Montmorillonite under Venus-like Conditions”. I am requesting travel funds through the Student Travel Grant to present this research.

Ava Schwarz
Yale University
Space Strategies Center Space Militarization Discussion – Space Policy Research Collaborative

By the conclusion of the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association’s Space Policy Research Collaborative (SPRC), several focused research teams will produce full-length reports and accompanying briefings of sufficient detail and insight so as to be presentable to an official policy-making organization. The SPRC will partner with the Yale Joseph P. Allen i5 Squadron as well as receive direct mentorship from the Hacking for Defense national corporation to produce the most informed and effective work, targeting a spectrum of space topics, from detecting launches to navigating the military-industrial space complex to the regulatory implications of a proliferated space systems communication architecture. 

Undergraduate Research Grant

Madeleine Biardi
Fairfield University
Grant Proposal for 8 Week Internal Wave Driven Mixing in Canyons Research

Following an 8 week program, we will analyse models of internal wave driven mixing within submarine canyons, with conditions mimicking those of real life data collections, to determine the viability of our models and how they can contribute to climate models for greater accuracy. These models will also determine which parts of the simulation reveal what real life data cannot, or data that cannot be collected within real life constraints. The budget for 8 weeks of research have been calculated, and several benefits of the research apply to the researcher, such as gained skills in coding and writing.

Louis Cedarbaum
Wesleyan University
Training a Neural Network to Recognize Galactic Properties from Image Data

Despite our wealth of observational capabilities, information from galaxy image analysis is limited in scope and physical properties tend to be derived from spectra. This project aims to bridge this gap using machine learning. Galaxy simulations are a crucial tool for investigating the evolution and makeup of galaxies and provide a variety of useful data that can be translated into images and information about physical properties. We will use the IllustrisTNG-50 galaxy simulation to train a Convolutional Neural Network to recognize physical properties of galaxies, particularly related to star formation history, from observational images.

Ethan Chow
Fairfield University
Projected Changes in Future Extreme Snowfall in the White Mountains in the CMIP6 Ensemble

The goal of this project is to formulate predictions of future extreme snowfall in the White Mountains region using historical and current models. The expected outcomes of this research are to publish a conclusive paper and create a presentation. To do this, changes in extreme snowfall in the CMIP6 ensemble will be analyzed and modeled. Predictions of future extreme snowfall answers multiple questions about how the Earth system is changing as well as falls under the foci of Weather and Atmospheric Dynamics (WAD) and Climate Variability and Change (CVC).

Brody Matijevic
Fairfield University
Projecting Changes in Extreme Snow Over Northeast US

Observations show that the magnitude of extreme precipitation over the Northeast United States has been increasing over the past several decades, and modeling studies suggest that such an increase in magnitude (and frequency) is likely to continue. Furthermore, recent modeling studies project an increase in wintertime extreme precipitation over the region. Given that the region frequently experiences wintertime precipitation in the forms of rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow, there is interest in understanding how each of these will change in a warming climate. Here, we undertake a study of future trends in extreme snowfall over the region using a suite of dynamically-downscaled climate models. We will present a comprehensive overview of the change in extreme snowfall statistics diagnosed from the simulations, providing detailed analysis of trends in both extreme snowfall magnitude and frequency. Furthermore, we will present our analysis of the trends in timing between extreme snowfall and extreme rainfall events and other compounded wintertime extreme precipitation events, which have significant implications for flooding. While our analysis is ongoing, the results presented have real and immediate implications for regional stakeholders and planners.

Sofia Rinaldi
Wesleyan University
Shaken or Stirred? The Kinematics and Morphology of Early Universe Galaxies

Most local-Universe galaxies can be classified by their shape–either as spirals, whose motion is rotation-dominated, or as ellipticals, which are dispersion-dominated. At high redshifts, however, these morphological features, and the kinematic properties they represent, become more ambiguous. Using simulations of massive high-redshift galaxies from the FIRE collaboration, this project investigates the kinematic properties of such galaxies and how they affect morphology. Our preliminary results show that galaxies become more dispersion-dominated and rounder with redshift; future work will expand these analyses, incorporating stellar ages and birth locations, in an effort to contextualize observations of similar galaxies made by JWST.

Student Scholarships

Community College Scholarships

Josh Calderon
CT Community College Naugatuck Valley

Justin Gonzalez
CT Community College Norwalk

John Guaman Chuqui
CT Community College Naugatuck Valley

Christopher Kulas
CT Community College Naugatuck Valley

Philip Kwiatkowski
CT Community College Middlesex

Nathan Reach
CT Community College Naugatuck Valley

Andrea Rueda
CT Community College Housatonic

Maritza Sanchez
CT Community College Gateway

Angelina Santos
CT Community College Naugatuck Valley

Community College Transfer Scholarships

Zachary Aglieco
Central Connecticut State University

Vince Andre Bucoy
Central Connecticut State University

Hunter Collins
Central Connecticut State University

Undergraduate Scholarships

Herny Almonte Fernandez
Central Connecticut State University

Luis Cardoso
University of Bridgeport

Kaiden Esteves
Central Connecticut State University

Nicholas Krupa
University of Hartford

Justin Niziolek
University of Hartford

Prenavi Rebala
University of Connecticut