Past Recipients

Past Award Recipients – Faculty

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

Spring 2021 Faculty Award Recipients

Faculty Research Grants

Sahar Al Seesi
Southern Connecticut State University
Gene Allele-Specific Expression (ASE) Estimation from Bulk and Single Cell RNA-Seq Data

Gene allele specific expression estimation is an interesting computational biology problem that answers the question of whether the paternal, the maternal, or both copies of an inherited gene are expressed (active) in a your body. This question is asked by many biologists, but the computational methods to address it are still not good enough to accurately give an answer. In this research project, we propose computational solution to address this problem using transcriptomic sequencing data. The project aligns with the mission of NASA’s gene lab, under the Human Exploration Mission Directorate, which focuses with mutli-omics (including transcriptomic) data-driven research.

Ali Bazzi
University of Connecticut
High-availability Energy Systems for Space Colonies

Space colonies have recently become of higher interest recently to explore new resources away from Earth. The main goal of this project is to significantly increase the availability of electrical energy systems in future space colonies during unexpected failures or events, thus enhancing the energy security of such colonies. The proposed research provides a framework and specific solutions where prediction, diagnostic, and fault-recovery methods, combined with enhanced microgrid architectures, will enable a more secure electrical energy supply for future space colonies. Future colonies will require a reliable and available power supply for many critical systems. Transformative approaches proposed here can provide relevant solutions. These include rapid fault prediction and diagnosis of system- and component-level faults in a colony’s electrical energy system, which is to be treated as an islanded microgrid; and utilization of unused power distribution and conversion capacity in available infrastructure to maximize the system’s available energy under faults and uncertain events.

Ruth Blake
Yale University
Extreme PO4 Biosignatures: Testing the Thermal Limits of the δ18O-PO4 Biomarker at Hydrothermal Conditions

The PO4 oxygen-isotope composition of DNA from biomolecules/biomass can serve as an internal thermometer and biosignature to study in-situ habitats of microorganisms from unknown and remote sources on Earth and on ocean-bearing worlds in our solar system. However, an offset in δ18O fractionations was observed for (hyper)thermophiles, at temperatures greater than 70°C, making the application of DNA thermometry problematic for extreme hydrothermal conditions. To fully understand the mechanism of fractionation of internal PO4 pools, we propose to test the hypothesis that the offset is due to intracellular fractionation caused by production of PO4-rich compatible solutes that are enriched in δ18O.

Dana Casetti
Southern Connecticut State University
Point Spread Function Modelling of WFPC2/HST Images with Deep Learning

This project will explore a novel way of achieving high-precision astrometry using deep learning techniques. We will work with WFPC2/HST images which are severely undersampled. The astrometric precision of these images is limited as a ”pixel-phase” bias is present even in the best, state-of-the art classical centering algorithms. We have identified an ideal and unique data set in the WFPC2 archive to explore and implement this deep-learning technique. The project has great synergy with existing research at SCSU and at Space Telescope Science Institute, and it involves two science departments at SCSU.

Byungik Chang
University of New Haven
Analysis of Energy Saving Wind Tower Erection on Mars

The main source of energy on Mars exploration missions is solar panels. However, the prevalence of dust on Mars limits their generation capabilities by blocking the solar cells thereby hindering their access to the sunlight. Surface winds on Mars typically move about 16 to 32 km/h. Thus, a wind energy could be another way to generate energy on Mars when humans arrive but it requires frequent maintenance and protection (take-down) because unpredictable weather. The primary goal of the research is proposing and analyzing alternative wind turbine erections and minimizing energy consumption in wind tower erection on Mars.

Eric Dieckman
University of New Haven
Ultrasonic Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) of Additively Manufactured Metals (AMMs)

Additively manufactured materials (AMM) provide the ability to create complex parts without machining. These parts are difficult to inspect, primarily due to geometry and anisotropic/heterogeneous material properties. Detecting and classifying flaws in AMM is vital to their use in safety-critical applications, such as NASA’s spaceflight missions. NASA is developing AMM parts ranging from engines to antennas, which cannot be easily inspected – current inspection techniques are expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to apply outside a lab. Use of common ultrasonic testing equipment adapted to AMM can provide a way to leverage existing technology in the nascent field of AMM testing.

Reihaneh Jamshidi
University of Hartford
Thermal and Mechanical Analysis of 3D-printed Structures for Space Applications

3D-printing facilitates creation of more complex geometries using less amounts of materials and manufacturing steps in comparison with conventional manufacturing techniques. This enables component design and fabrication of space systems with less production time and cost, and environmental impacts. The challenge however, is qualification and verification of 3D-ptinted materials for space applications, as the extreme space environment imposes stringent requirements. The proposed study will investigate the effect of thermal cycling in space, on the mechanical properties of the 3D-printed parts. Thermal cycling can produce stress in structures, which contributes to mechanical defects and failure. This is extremely important for study of 3D-printed materials for space applications, as these structures are built layer upon layer, and stress can initiate delamination and breakage at the interface between the layers.

Derek Laux
Eastern Connecticut State University
Examining the Effects of Microgravity and Space Radiation on Cellular Senescence

Space travel exposes the human body to unique threats. Microgravity and cosmic radiation can both contribute to physiological health risks, including cardiovascular changes, muscle atrophy, and bone density loss. Astronauts show elevated levels of senescence, which seems to provide a molecular explanation for many of the health problems related to space travel. How microgravity and radiation induce senescence and components of these cells that may contribute to disease remain unknown. This study will address NASA’s goal of understanding biological responses to spaceflight by examining how microgravity and radiation induce cellular senescence and by examining molecular targets to alleviate age-related dysfunction.

Seok-Woo Lee
University of Connecticut
Development of Small-Scale Cryogenic Linear Actuator by Using Novel Intermetallic Compounds

Space missions often involve ultra-cold environments, and cryogenic actuators must be mechanically robust for long-term cyclic work, generate high power, as well as perform high precision motion in such extreme environments. Recently, we discovered a novel intermetallic compound CaFe2As2 that meets these demanding requirements. In this project, therefore, a new type of cryogenic linear actuator will be developed by performing the combined set of works that include the evaluation of cryogenic linear actuation performance, understanding of physics behind cryogenic actuation properties, and the development of proto-type linear actuators that operates at a temperature between 4 and 150 K.

Robert Nazarian
Fairfield University
Increased Heat Stress in a Changing Climate

In a warming climate, changes in heat stress more significantly impact human health than the increase in temperature alone; some studies go so far as to suggest that the tropics may not be habitable due to extreme heat stress. Our goal is to use an ensemble of high-resolution climate models to calculate the change in heat stress over the northeast US through 2100, focusing on the compounding effects of increasing temperature and relative humidity. This study supports NASA’s training and research missions by advancing our understanding of our changing climate and providing undergraduate students with a robust research experience.

Aaron Van Dyke
Fairfield University
Examining Sex Differences in Brain and Behavior After Long-Term Social Isolation Using Rats

The psychological and biochemical effects of living in confined conditions for prolonged periods that are typical of orbital and deep-space missions have not been fully explored. This collaborative project will examine sex-specific effects of social isolation on locomotor, anxiety, social, and cognitive behaviors using rats. Adolescent male and female rats will be confined to social isolation (1 per cage) or small groups (2-4 per cage) for 5 weeks before behaviors are assessed. Subsequently, protein markers for decision making and memory will be quantified using Western blotting. This interdisciplinary project will train undergraduate students in behavioral and biochemical techniques.

Faculty STEM Education Programming

Ruth Blake
Yale University
FemLED STEAM: Young Inner-city Females Lead, Envision, and Develop for STEM

There is a shortage of Inner-city students exposed to Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). In supporting NASA’s mission directorates that seeks to inspire the pursuit of careers in STEM within traditionally unrepresented groups, the proposal’s goal is to develop a STEM workshop for inner-city females focused on STEM career development, STEM women of color history, STEM appreciation role-playing, and STEM product-creation. Participants will 1) have the confidence to pursue STEM careers, 2) advocate for peers with STEM interest, 3) develop a greater awareness of diverse STEM fields, and 4) appreciate the mentoring and cross-cultural experience with university STEM students.

Faculty-Student Summer Research Grants

Haoyu Wang
Central Connecticut State University
Robotic Intelligent Grasping for Unknown Objects Using Vision, Force Sensing, and Deep Learning

This research will contribute to NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. The goal of the research is to develop a robotic intelligent grasping system using vision, force sensing, and deep learning. The system can be mounted on a vehicle on another planet to help on tasks such as retrieving samples or conducting repair or maintenance jobs. Two undergraduate students will design and prototype an error tolerant gripper and integrate it and a deep learning computer to an ABB IRB 1200 robot with integrated force control and vision. They will also develop system software for vision, force control, and deep learning

Cy Yavuzturk
University of Hartford
Transport and Flow Characteristics of Graphene-Doped Nanofluids in Double-Pipe Heat Exchangers

The objective of the proposed study is the experimental/analytical assessment of heat transfer and flow characteristics of graphene-doped nanofluids in concentric tube heat exchangers. A double-pipe system will be configured such that graphene-doped primary fluid of varying graphene volume fractions flows in the inner tube while a secondary flow of deionized water counter-flows in the annulus. The controlled changes of thermal properties will allow for the assessment of nanofluid heat transfer characteristics. The study results have implications in the characterization of heat transfer phenomena using graphene-based nanofluids in cooling applications for operation of aeronautical vehicles and related subsystems.

Fall 2020 Faculty Award Recipients

Faculty Project Grants

Luz Amaya
Central Connecticut State University
Design and Manufacture of Portable Solar Potable Water Generation System

“This project will design and manufacture a low-cost, portable, and efficient potable water generation system using solar power. This self-sustainable system will generate drinking water and can be utilized mainly in low-income and disasters areas. This project is a continuation of a research project with positive results, however, still requires modifications that meet design constraints such as portability, variation of atmospheric conditions (humidity and temperature), and lower manufacturing costs. Development of this system will be the first of its kind, advancing water generation systems with renewable power. Additionally, this project involves multidisciplinary research combining expertise across multiple departments.”

Bryan Connolly
Eastern Connecticut State University
Building an Open Source Micro-Tomato Breeding Collaborative for Space and Off Planet Colonies

“Tomatoes are a popular nutritious vegetable that will likely be grown on the space station and off planet colonies. A limited number of extremely small statured tomatoes, dubbed micro-tomatoes, exist that are 12” tall, making them ideal for growing in the confined habitats of space. These tomatoes have very limited genetic diversity. I propose to create diverse gene pools of small statured tomatoes by hybridizing micro-tomatoes with other tomato types that vary in color, flavor, shape etc. These gene pools will be shared with universities, schools, and amateurs to develop a network of breeders to select new micro-tomatoes for space.”

Myrta Groeneveld
Manchester Community College
Math Advancement Program

“Manchester Community College proposes a Math Advancement Program to target students placed in the lowest level of mathematics. The program promotes a mixture of learning skills, individual growth and subject mastery. We aim to create a course that provides individualized curriculum and an inviting environment, where students learn about basic concepts of mathematics as well the different resources available to them on campus and in the community. There is a need for a booster program where students can remediate their basic math skills while developing their academic and organizational skills. These skill-sets lead to an increase self-confidence and college success.”

Xin Ye
University of Hartford
Acute Effects of Combining Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation and Voluntary Isometric Exercise on Neuromuscular Functions

“Aligning with the Human Exploration & Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) to provide countermeasures to microgravity-induced human neuromuscular deterioration, the purpose of this investigation is to examine the acute effects of combining neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) and isometric exercise (ISO) on human neuromuscular functions. At least 28 healthy participants will be recruited to participate in this 4-visit experiment. The participants will undergo different exercise modalities (Control, ISO, and NEMS + ISO), and pre- and post-measurements such as strength and motor unit firing properties will be conducted to evaluate the efficacy of the combined exercise modality (NMES + ISO).”

Faculty Travel Grants

Reihaneh Jamshidi
University of Hartford

Spring 2020 Faculty Award Recipients

Faculty Research

Leslie Frame
University of Connecticut
Development and Characterization of Extraterrestrial Soils for Local Vehicle Test Beds

       The United States has existing plans to return to the Moon, send manned missions to Mars and unmanned missions to Venus.  Lesley Frame (UConn, Assistant Professor in MSE) and Jani Macari Pallis (UB, Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering) will collaborate to create regolith/soil simulants for two small realistic test beds which will emulate Lunar, Martian, and Venusian landscapes. The proposed research and resulting test beds will be used by both UConn and UB to attract students into STEM capacity building opportunities, including participation in NASA challenges and research related to exploration, transportation and housing on these extraterrestrial surfaces.

Anna Kloc
University of New Haven
Evaluating the impact of human herpesvirus infection on heart function

       Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The heart can be infected by viruses, which may lead to an inflammatory, and potentially life-threatening, condition known as myocarditis. Human herpesviruses, often reactivated in astronauts during space travels, have been implicated in heart disease. The goal of this research project is to analyze the genomic sequences of herpesviruses found in human cardiac samples, and characterize the expression patterns of inflammatory markers associated with heart disease. These analyses will lead to a better understanding of herpesvirus-induced heart pathology, and help develop diagnostic tools that assess cardiac disease progression. 

Robert O’Brien
University of New Haven
The Impact of Thermal Variations of Connecticut Salt Marshes on Associated Marine Wildlife as Detected Using Remote Sensing.

        As a result of climate change, sea levels are rising around the globe threatening the ecological role of coastal salt marshes. Remote imagery will be used to identify thermal variations and resulting wildlife behavior at three Connecticut salt marshes. The compilation of this salt marsh specific data will add to general knowledge, particularly building on ecology, environmental science, and marine biology. The creation of an efficient procedure for obtaining temporal data using remote sensing equipment such as small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (sUAV) and Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) cameras will optimize operational capability in future data collection missions.

Carter Takacs
University of New Haven
Investigating genetic compensation as a biological response to deleterious mutations

       Prolonged human exposure to ionizing radiation in space can lead to an accumulation of genetic mutations and increased cancer risk. Recent work has revealed that genetic mutations can be tolerated through genetic compensation, which refers to an organism’s ability to compensate for deleterious mutations by turning on unaffected genes that possess similar functions. We propose to use zebrafish as a model to 1) explore how this process is triggered and 2) identify cellular factors involved in this process. Ultimately, this work will inform biological strategies to mitigate the damaging effects of radiation, thereby enabling human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.

Shue Wang
University of New Haven

Mechanoregulation of osteogenic differentiation in simulated microgravity

       Microgravity causes several physiological changes during space travel, including osteoporosis-like loss of bone mass. Although it is known weight-bearing exercises could potentially lower the risk of osteoporosis, the mechanisms underlying how mechanical loading affects cells and causes bone loss is not clear. We will first quantify the effects of simulated microgravity on osteogenesis – bone formation process- and identify the key signaling related to this process. Next, we will compare osteogenic differentiation in microgravity with and without applied mechanical compression to see if this returns the functions of the normal state. Completion of this project will provide a fundamental understanding of how changes in mechanical loading cause bone loss and osteoporosis, which will in turn improve and develop new treatments.

 

Faculty STEM Education Programming

Ruth Blake
Yale University
STEMing Up!

      The shortage of ethnic youth engaged in STEM indicates the need for STEM to be valued by parents— children’s first and most influential teachers. It is also often said that youth need rolemodels that “look like them”. We propose to develop an engaging workshop for parents living in underserved neighborhoods that will expose them and their children to STEM careers/research and will be presented by a team of primarily ethnic STEM professionals. Parents will receive knowledge /tools to recognize and promote STEM engagement by their young children and foundations to prepare them for future participation in STEM summer camps.

Donna Hylton
Middlesex Community College
Adventures in Learning STEM 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 again be working with the Middletown Public Schools to help prepare pre-school children for kindergarten by using a program called Bridges to Brilliance. This app teaches young children letters, numbers, and concepts of STEM. Children will have tablets to explore during our program and this will be reinforced by integrating Lego projects for hands-on creativity.

Faculty Project

Ruth Blake
Yale University
Direct analysis of DNA-bound phosphate: Toward combining temperature with taxonomy in the search for life

       Isotope thermometry has been limited to only those organisms having biomineral hardparts such as shells, bones and teeth, which has excluded 2 entire domains of life: Bacteria and Archaea. The recently developed DNA Thermometry proxy, based on 18O:16O ratios of PO4 in DNA (DNA-PO4), now extends isotope thermometry to all lifeforms and habitats. Proposed work to develop methods for direct analysis of DNA-PO4 will allow faster analysis of smaller samples which is critical to future applications of DNA Thermometry including to linking temperature with taxonomy/metabolomics and addressing the key questions of who’s there? what they’re doing? and at what temperature?

Faculty Travel

Ivana Milanovic
University of Hartford
Travel to ASME FEDSM2020 conference in Rosen Shingle Creek Orlando, FL

       One of NASA’s strategic objectives is cultivation of a workforce with the right balance of skills and experience. My research ‘Simulation-Based Approach to STEM Challenges,’ funded by CT SG Educational Grant 2019-2020, investigated the use of simulations, application building, and inquiry-based learning (IBL) in the undergraduate engineering curriculum,
specifically in the thermo-fluids topical thread. The project findings are described in detail in American Society of Mechanical Engineers Fluids Engineering Division Summer Meeting (FEDSM) conference paper ‘Unified Assessment Approach for Courses with Simulation Component.’ I am seeking funds to support travel to the ASME FEDSM2020 conference and present my research findings.

Faculty-Student Research

Sarah Maurer
Central Connecticut State University
Development of heterogenousa abiotic mixtures and analysis of their potential for chemical evolution

      Heterogenous abiotic mixtures will be prepared as is produced from interstellar and geochemical reactions. These mixtures will be used to model chemical evolution as a precursor for the origin of life. The mixtures will be exposed to cycles of drying and wetting such that would happen naturally from day/night cycles. The mixtures will be analyzed using LC-MS and analyzed using multivariate statistical analysis to determine the mixtures and conditions that are most likely to lead to complexity, and possibly life. NASA supports this work through its Science directorate under the Planetary Science Division through their Exobiology program. 

Peyton DeBowsky
Manchester Community College

Nathan Linklater
Central Connecticut State University

Fall 2019 Faculty Award Recipients

Ameh Fioklou
University of Hartford
Agave Fiber-Reinforced Concrete Mechanical Properties Evaluation

       Composite materials have gained applications in many industries including aerospace. The current research project deals with improving the tensile capacity of concrete through the addition of agave bers. This study will investigate the mechanical properties of agave ber-reinforced concrete as a composite material. The effects of agave ber proportion on the mechanical properties of the composite will also be investigated. The mechanical characterizations will be performed using fourpoint bending test (exural testing) in accordance with ASTM C1609, split tensile strength test, and compressive test in accordance with ASTM C39.

James Greenwood
Wesleyan University
Weathering of Venus basalt

       We propose an experimental study of the weathering of Venus basalts under Venusian conditions. This work is compelling because of recent discoveries of weathering minerals from Magellan radar emissivity data (Gilmore et al., 2019). We will be testing the hypotheses that 1) chlorapatite can be formed as a weathering mineral on Venus, and 2) if pyrite can be formed as a weathering mineral on Venus. This work is directly relevant to Strategic Goal 1 of the 2018 NASA Strategic Plan, as it seeks to expand human knowledge through scientific discoveries in order to understand the Solar System 

Jessica Smith
Central Connecticut State University
Investigating the Physiology of Anaerobic Iron Respiration by Early Earth Microorganisms

       It is known that early Earth was devoid of oxygen, and that the earliest organisms that inhabited the planet respired insoluble metals including Fe(III). Furthermore, it has been proposed that Mars and other iron-rich planets are suitable for extremophilic Fe(III)-reducers. Regardless, little is known about the physiology and evolution of metal-breathing species. In this study, we propose investigating mechanisms of iron-respiration in extremophiles using genome sequencing, comparative transcriptomics, and laboratory adaptive evolution techniques with extremophilic microorganisms. Results from this research will aid in NASA’s goal to explore the “origin of life on earth and the search for life elsewhere”. 

Bryan Weber
University of Connecticut
Investigating the Atomization Process of a Modern Pressure-Swirl Aero-Engine Injector at Engine Relevant Pressures

       Despite the impact of the performance of modern liquid fuel injectors on the design and effectiveness of advanced aero-propulsion systems, the breakup processes of conical-lm injectors are not well understood. The proposed research focuses on improving the prediction of the spray cone angle and breakup length of a pressure-swirl fuel injector at elevated ambient pressures up to 15 bar. High-speed and high-resolution back-lit imaging will be utilized to capture the atomization behavior under various fuel ow rate and ambient pressure conditions, with multiple aviation fuels being utilized for testing. The experimental results will be then contrasted with established spray models.

 

 

Faculty STEM Education Programming

Harvey Hoffman
Fairfield University
Afterschool Robotics with Wakeman Boys and Girls Club

       The Afterschool Robotics at Wakeman Boys and Girls Club is a service learning Robotics course offered at Fairfield University in Spring 2020. The program aims to build a STEM pathway through mentorship between undergraduates and middle school students. The project will introduce approximately 15 undergraduate engineering students at Fairfield University to the knowledge and skills to engage in robot building and then mentor approximately 15 middle students from Wakeman Boys and Girls Club. The undergraduate students will apply their learning and demonstrate leadership in conveying technical knowledge to young learners to encourage their interest and capabilities in STEM.

Edward Moran
Wesleyan University
The 2020 Sturm Memorial Lecture

       The Sturm Lecture is an annual public event that is designed to bring the excitement of astrophysics and space science to members of the Wesleyan campus and the greater Middletown area. A diverse audience of 200-250 people is expected.

Faculty-Student Research

Miad Faezipour
University of Bridgeport
ECG-Based Cardiac Assessment for Microgravity and High Altitude Atmospheres

       This research project focuses on the electrocardiogram (ECG) signal characteristics and introduces novel methods to identify certain types of arrhythmia and/or the onset of heart attack with high accuracy. This is especially important as fatal heart episodes have been reported in connection with takeoffs and landings as well as high-altitude atmospheres. Signal processing techniques will be employed to identify ECG characteristic feature points and then machine learning will be applied to classify the signal into healthy or classes of irregular ECG beats. The proposed techniques are intended to conveniently assist monitoring the heart functionality in conditions such as aerospace environments. 

Eoin King
University of Hartford
Assessment of Aircraft Noise Abatement Strategies

       This project will examine approaches to environmental noise control at airports across the US and quantify the effectiveness of various noise abatement strategies. This will be achieved by i) conducting a large-scale survey of noise abatement strategies across 280 airports, ii) assessing trends in noise complaint data for selected airports, and iii) assessing overall trends in noise exposure data (where available). Research will be conducted by two undergraduate students with backgrounds in engineering and/or data analytics.

Spring 2019 Faculty Award Recipients

Faculty Research

Lindsey Hanson
Trinity College
Nanoparticle-polymer composites as optical stress sensors for early damage detection

Early detection of stress concentration is vital to the prevention of catastrophic failures in
aerospace components. An optical stress sensor, or material that converts mechanical stress into
an optical readout, would allow for non-destructive, high throughput assessment of stresses before
damage progresses. Recent work showed that the absorbance spectrum of gold nanoparticles
changes with compressive stress. However, neither the effect of uniaxial compression or tension
on the optical response nor that of incorporating the particles into a polymer is known. In this
project, we will lay the foundations for self-reporting composite materials by incorporating gold
nanoparticles into polymers and studying their optomechanical properties.

Susan Masino
Trinity College
Tree-based carbon: A comparison of existing models, direct measurement and citizen science

Accurate measurements of tree volume and associated carbon storage are necessary to determine ongoing negative carbon emissions. Recent detailed measurements have found that the volume of larger, older trees is underestimated systematically. NASA satellites and missions have been focused on studying forests and the movement of carbon through ecosystems, and recently started a ground-based citizen science initiative using smartphones to measure tree height. Here, we partner established experts and undergraduate students to compare data gathered with traditional tools, state-of-the-art instrumentation and the citizen science initiative to enable cross-validation and highly accurate measurements of large trees growing within a forest setting.

John Mertens
Trinity College
Optimization of Chemical Kinetics Model of NH3 Combustion Using Experimental Data

Developing the most efficient methods for Energy Storage is critical for many power systems, both
on earth and in space. Major new international efforts are underway to study the use of ammonia
(NH3) as an energy carrier, i.e. storing energy by synthesizing ammonia, and later recouping the
energy by combusting the ammonia. The goal of this study is to develop the definitive detailed gas
phase chemical reaction mechanism for ammonia combustion, using extensive pre-existing and
additional new experimental measurements as benchmarks. This is strongly related to NASA’s
Goal 2: Advance understanding of Earth and develop technologies to improve the quality of life on
our home planet.

Rob Narzarian
Fairfield University
Global Impacts of Mixing in Submarine Canyons

Model simulations and observations suggest that individual submarine canyons can be regions of intense ocean mixing. Our goal is to calculate the total amount of the ocean’s mixing occurring in submarine canyons and determine its role in sustaining the ocean’s circulation. We will utilize a high-resolution ocean topography map and computational model for energy fluxes to calculate the mixing within each canyon based on Nazarian 2017a. This study supports NASA’s training and research missions by advancing our understanding of the distribution of mixing and its role in ocean circulation, as well as providing undergraduate students with a robust research experience.

Noah Planavsky
Yale University
Towards an Understanding of Phosphorus Cycling on Waterworlds

Phosphorus is a key factor for life as we know it.. Continental weathering is considered
the only source of phosphorus to the oceans, implying that fluid-rich exoplanets (so called
waterworlds) may be biological deserts due to severe phosphorus limitation. However, in
contrast to the prevailing view, preliminary results from anoxic alteration experiments with
crystalline basalt indicate that anoxic basalt alteration is an efficient source of bioavailable
phosphorus. We plan to extend this research with experiments at a range of environmental
conditions, pH, pressure, and basalt types to provide a more robust framework to make predictions about exoplanetary biospheres.

Faculty STEM Education Research 

Elizabeth Cowles
Eastern Connecticut State University
Going Further: Do High School Research Experiences Impact Persistence in STEM?

Attracting students to enter STEM fields is a NASA strategic goal. Research experience for undergraduates increases their persistence in STEM. Can research do the same for high school students? Here we assess the outcomes of a high school biotechnology research program. Our objectives are to analyze the effects of the following on applications and acceptances to college: student research participation, family influences, mentor-pairing and credentials in skill acquisition. The results will provide evidence on the most effective practices for attracting, retaining, and supporting students into college STEM programs.

Ivana Milanovic
University of Hartford
Simulation-Based Approach to STEM Challenges

One of NASA’s strategic objectives is cultivation of a workforce with the right balance of skills and experience. The proposed research will investigate the use of simulations,  application building, and inquiry-based learning (IBL) in the undergraduate engineering curriculum, specifically in the thermo-fluids topical thread. The objectives are to address the challenges of (1) moving students from being successful in highly structured tasks to navigating the unstructured tasks, and (2) fulfilling the ABET student outcome (k) which states that students should have the ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.

Faculty STEM Education Programming

Donna Hylton
Middlesex Community College
Adventures in Learning STEM 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 be working with the Middletown Public Schools to help prepare pre-school children for kindergarten by using a program called Bridges to Brilliance. This app teaches young children letters, numbers, and concepts of STEM. Children will have tablets to explore during our program and this will be reinforced by integrating Lego projects for hands-on creativity.

William Herbst
Wesleyan University
A public Lecture on Astronomy at Wesleyan University

We propose to build on the legacy of the Sturm Memorial Lecture Series and contribute to a celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of NASA’s landing on the Moon by providing a public lecture on the topic of astronomy by a prominent astrophysicist for the greater central Connecticut community.

Faculty-Student Summer Research

Haoyu Wang
Central Connecticut State University
A wearable system for quick visualization and diagnosis of issues in space using mixed reality technology

This research will contribute to NASA’s Human Exploration and Development of Space strategic enterprise. The goal of the research is to develop a wearable system based on mixed reality (augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)) to help human quickly visualize and diagnose issues in space vehicles or habitats. Two undergraduate students will design and prototype the system which integrates Microsoft Hololens (AR), HTC VIVE and MANUS VR (VR), and a computer through software development using their application programming interface (API).

Fall 2018 Faculty Award Recipients

Faculty Research

Djedjiga Belfadel
Fairfield University
Robust Approach for Space Based Imaging Sensors Alignment
“Accurate space born sensor calibration is a critical element for space exploration and space technology enhancement. The aim of this project is the improvement of space born imaging sensor, by removing systematic errors from the sensor output, to contribute to the urgent national security need to protect our nation against enemy ballistic missiles. To achieve this goal, The PI and students will develop a computational model to improve the accuracy of the sensor calibration, in real time, while simultaneously tracking the target. This project will expose students to complex mathematical and computational problems and allow them to work on projects related to space technology. “

Clayton Byers
Trinity College
Energetics and Decay of Isotropic Turbulence from an Oscillating Grid
“A theoretical and experimental study of isotropic turbulence is performed by designing, building, and utilizing an oscillating grid. The influence of the grid geometry on the energy spectrum and decay rate of the turbulence is investigated. The effect of these different physical initial conditions leads to a clearer understanding of the turbulence energy cascade and dynamics, enabling an assessment of how turbulence is initialized in computational simulations. This will supply researchers and engineers with refined capabilities in studying turbulence, ranging from climate and weather models, computer simulations of turbulence over airfoils and other complex bodies, and even stellar turbulence dynamics.”

Khaled Elleithy
University of Bridgeport
Collaboration with Akram Abu-aisheh, University of Hartford
Implementation and Performance Evaluation of Overlay End System Multicast (ESM) for Stable and Fast Streaming of Multimedia Applications over Satellite Networks
“This grant will be used to investigate the issues related to the implementation of Overlay End-System Multicast to support satellite Internet and networks. Furthermore, we will develop both analytical and mathematical models to evaluate the performance of overlay networks for stable and fast streaming of multimedia applications over satellite networks. The results produced by this research would help satellite networks designers to design and implement more robust and efficient future networks that support variety of multimedia applications. The objectives of this proposal are very relevant and extremely important to NASA strategic goal 4 Optimize Capabilities and Operations.”

Kevin Huang
Trinity College
Collaboration with Haoyu Huang, Central Connecticut State University 
VR/AR Mediated Teleoperation of Dexterous and Legged Space Robots(Continued collaboration research between CCSU and Trinity College)
“This work aims to extend the decision making and adaptiveness of human beings to space operations through remotely operated robots. Autonomous robots alone are poorly suited for handling unpredictable environments. Our previous work implemented state of the art virtual reality (VR) interfaces and software bridges for teleoperated dexterous robots at two academic institutions, Trinity College and Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Beyond continuing promising work toward this end, we will develop novel regimes for human-controlled legged locomotion of space robots. This novel interface will enable robots to overcome challenging terrain in order to reach and complete a dexterous task.”

Natalie Schultz
Yale University
Measuring Fine-Scale Urban Carbon Dioxide Emissions using a UAV Sensor System
“Urban areas are the dominant source of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the atmosphere, yet cities also have major opportunities to implement climate change mitigation measures. However, it remains a challenge to directly measure fine-scale urban  CO2 emissions. The objective of this project is to quantify urban CO2 emissions at high spatial and temporal resolution using a low-cost sensor system aboard a lightweight UAV. This research will advance our understanding of urban CO2 dynamics, as well as provide a method that has the potential to be widely deployed across cities for urban CO2 monitoring. “

Paul Slaboch
University of Hartford
Characterization of the Acoustic Absorption of Hollow Cylinders
“Commercial aircraft engine fan noise is currently controlled through the use of acoustic liners on the inside of the engine cowling. Recent studies have found that hollow cylinders packed closely together can act as an acoustic liner. The cylinders have been shown to exhibit better acoustic absorption below 1000 Hz than traditional liners, however the physical mechanism behind the absorption is not well understood. This project will develop experimental and computational methodologies to characterize the acoustic absorption of various configurations of additively manufactured cylinders to better understand the underlying mechanisms. This work directly supports Strategic Thrust 3A of the NASA Aeronautics Strategic Plan 2016.”

Kamau Wright
University of Hartford
Scaling Effects of Multiple Plasma Discharges On Decomposition of CO2
“This study will investigate the scaling effect of using multiple plasma micro-discharges on decomposition of CO2. Plasma – an ionized gas – will be generated in the laboratory using electrical energy from high voltage power supplies. While decomposition of CO2 has been demonstrated with various types of discharges, the challenge remains in achieving high conversion rates while maintaining reasonably high efficiency. This system has the potential to generate value-added products such as oxygen, from decomposition of CO2, helping to enable the ability of human space explorers to operate further away from Earth, as they are facilitated by in situ oxygen production methods.”


Faculty STEM Education Programming

Alison Draper
Trinity College
“Tech Savvy 2019 Conference for Girls”

 

Spring 2018 Faculty 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 Faculty 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 Faculty 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 Faculty 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 Faculty 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 Faculty 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 Faculty 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

 

Past Award Recipients – Students

Spring 2021 Student Award Recipients

Graduate Research Fellowship

Jacob Bowie
University of Connecticut
Effectiveness of a Minimal Exercise Training Program on Athlete Detraining as a Model for Countermeasures to Microgravity Effects on Skeletal Muscle

The Human Exploration Mission Directorate defines cardiovascular and muscular fitness as a research focus area. We aim to 1) quantify detraining to support use of this as a validated microgravity research model and 2) to assess the effects of a once weekly exercise protocol (MRP, Maximal Returns Protocol) on post-season, 12 weeks detraining among trained athletes. MRP is an evidence-based protocol designed to maximize the adaptive response. If MRP is effective, we will observe maintained or improved (vs. control) cardiovascular function (i.e., VO2max, heart rate during maximal exercise) and muscle strength (i.e., bench, squat, handgrip strength).

Andrew Casey-Clyde
University of Connecticut
Multi-Messenger Detections and Constraints of Supermassive Black Hole Binaries

The local number density of supermassive black hole binaries (SMBHBs) is expected to be directly observable with gravitational waves via pulsar timing array experiments, while the masses and redshifts of SMBHBs contributing to the gravitational wave background (GWB) is expected to contain information on both the black holes themselves, and the galaxy mergers that produce these binary systems. We propose to develop a framework for constraining the masses, redshifts, and local number density of SMBHBs with the GWB. In addition to providing more general constraints on their population, this framework will tie SMBHB population models to a future observable.

Erica Misner
University of New Haven
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a Model for Borrelia Burgdorferi Infection

With constant improvements to space travel come more opportunities for exposure to novel and dangerous pathogens. Unfortunately, in vitro antibiotic testing does not represent accurate clinical efficiency against pathogens. Our objective is to establish zebrafish as an inexpensive, simple organism for the testing of antibiotics against resistant strains of bacteria. Straightforward immersion infection techniques will be utilized to infect zebrafish with Borrelia burgdorferi, shown to be highly antibiotic-resistant and capable of surviving extreme conditions including vacuum. Well-established PCR methods and antibiotic-susceptibility testing will be performed as proof of concept. These techniques can be applied to deep space exploration vessels as well as underserved communities with minimal laboratory equipment.

Undergraduate Research Grant

Anna Fehr
Wesleyan University
Dynamical Study of HD 106906’s Disk Morphology and External Perturber

A debris disk is a collection of dust and other debris around a star, analogous to the Kuiper belt around our Sun. While debris disks are common around main sequence stars, HD 106906 is one of few systems known to host an external planetary-mass companion as well as a directly imaged debris disk. Hence, it provides a unique opportunity to analyze dynamical interaction between the two, where the properties of both can be measured. In this project, we will interpret observations of disk morphology alongside orbital constraints derived from the proper motion of the planet by using dynamical models.

Hannah Lewis
Wesleyan University
Determining the Mean Molecular Weight of Gas in the Debris Disk Around 49 Ceti

Circumstellar disks are collections of gas and dust around stars. There are two types: the younger, gas-rich protoplanetary disks, and the more evolved, gas-poor debris disks. However, some debris disks such as 49 Ceti are gas-rich, which poses important questions about circumstellar disk evolution and our understanding of our solar system’s evolution. This project proposes to combine observations of vertical structure with measured excitation temperatures from C18O line ratios in the disk around 49 Ceti to determine H2 density, which will indicate whether the gas is primordial or second generation and yield important insight into the process of disk evolution.

Eric Rumsfeld
Wesleyan University
Measuring Dynamical Masses of Gas-Bearing Debris Disk Host Stars

Dusty debris disks that orbit main sequence stars are comparable to our Solar System’s Kuiper belt. While debris disks have less gas than their younger counterparts, a surprising discovery by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is that many of these debris disks do in fact have substantial reservoirs of molecular gas. We will combine archival ALMA data with new Gaia data that provide precise stellar distances to measure dynamical masses of gas-bearing debris disk host stars. We will compare the dynamical masses that we derive with stellar evolution models to test our understanding of these isolated young stars.

Cassidy Soloff
Wesleyan University
A Transit Survey of Bright, Hot Star

Radial velocity and transit surveys have dramatically expanded the number of exoplanets detected, but this sample of exoplanets is shaped by the technological biases of these techniques. Wide field-of-view transit surveys expose for dimmer stars while the radial velocity technique is less effective at making detections around hotter stars because they lack spectral features. With the arrival of Wesleyan University’s new 24-inch automated research telescope, we can conduct a transit survey targeting bright, hot stars to search for exoplanets missed by other radial velocity and transit surveys. For non-detections, we can calculate the probability that no transiting planet exists.

Jillian Ulibarri
University of New Haven
Determining the Role of KHSRP on mRNA Stability in the Vertebrate Embryo

NASA aims to understand the effects spaceflight has on human physiology. During spaceflight, humans experience oxidative stress, which can alter the function of AU-rich element binding proteins (ARE-BPs), which are important regulators of gene activity and human physiology. I propose to 1) identify potential mRNA targets of ARE-BPs that display instability during embryonic development, 2) use CRISPR/Cas13 to determine whether they are regulated by KHSRP, a highly expressed ARE-BP and 3) assess how oxidative stress impacts the function of KHSRP. Doing this work will provide insights into the effects of KHSRP on maternal mRNA stability and oxidative stress impacts.

Student Project Grant

David Holtman
Central Connecticut State University
Designing and Manufacturing Forward Swept Tip Helicopter Blades

The proposed project is to increase the lift force of a preexisting intermeshing rotor helicopter and repair the ground test stand used to measure the lift of said helicopter. The proposed method to increase the lift force includes the manufacturing of forward swept tip blades. Swept tip blades provide greater lift at large Mach numbers and greater efficiency. The design and manufacturing of the proposed project requires the use of CAD, FEA, and CFD software, as well as CNC machining and 3D printing. The total cost of the project amounts to $567 and will take 288 days to complete.

Janae Annabeth Kellarakos
University of Hartford
Horn Antenna Design and Construction for Preparation of Metasurface Beam-Steering Implementation for 21cm Neutral Hydrogen Detection

For this project we will design and construct a radio horn telescope using three different horn materials that can be used to detect and evaluate the presence of neutral hydrogen in interstellar clouds within our Milky Way galaxy. This project is a preliminary and necessary step for future design and fabrication of metasurface beam-steering lenses that can be used to improve resolution and control of desired frequency ranges in radio astronomy. This will promote NASA-related research and establish a collaborative relationship with the University of Hartford’s multiscale electromagnetic research group.

Nishita Mirchandani
University of Hartford
MINK Aero: Active Aero Rear Wing

Aerodynamics packages enhance overall vehicle performance in track related driving. The Active aero rear wing project seeks to automate and manufacture a rear wing of a Formula Society of Automotive Engineering (FSAE) vehicle to maximize the overall vehicle handling performance while minimizing drag. FSAE is a global collegiate competition that test students’ ability to design and build a functional race car. Throughout the development of our group, MINK (Mirchandani-Iacuone-Noval-Kral) Aero’s project, multiple electronic controlled wing designs will be analyzed through computational fluid dynamic simulations, Finite element analysis, testbench analysis, as well as physical model testing in a wind-tunnel.

Sarah Pentzke
Yale University
Yale Space Station

The Yale Space Station will be the name for the semi-permanent installation of a ham radio tower on the roof of Yale University’s Environmental Science Center. The first experiment that will be done will be an Earth-Moon-Earth moonbounce experiment, using the moon and radio waves’ unique qualities to complete a calculation of the speed of light. The YSS is also planned to serve as a tool for activities such as contacting astronauts in the International Space Station through NASA’s ARISS program and to aid the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA) in communicating with their cube satellite in orbit.

Derik Scott Walter
Central Connecticut University
Wind Turbine Guard

A guard for a wind turbine will be designed and tested to increase the effectiveness of the turbine. The guard will orient itself to the direction of the wind through smooth mechanical motion. CFD software will be used to test each design. Data analysis will determine a final design. Once a guard design has been chosen, a prototype will be built to test the design in application. Modifications will be made as needed to address any issues the guard encounters. A final report will be written and presented to display the accomplishments and effectiveness of the guard design.

Undergraduate Scholarships

Joshua Grajales
Wesleyan University

Brenna Hoar
Trinity College

Alisa Levin
Trinity College

Ava Nederlander
Wesleyan University

Clare Staib-Kaufman
Yale University

Guilmar Valle
University of Connecticut

Keduse Worku
Yale University

Transfer Scholarships

Alberto Labrada
University of Bridgeport

Stephanie Tripodi
Central Connecticut State University

Community College Scholarships

Steven Duncan
Capital Community College

Derlyn Hernandez
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Lindsey Japa
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Kishan Kunver
Capital Community College

Ryan Marquis
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Steison Ruiz
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Fall 2020 Student Award Recipients

Undergraduate Research

Gabriel Galeotos
University of New Haven
Assessment of Cytokine Expression Patterns Associated with Heart Disease

“Heart disease is a significant issue faced by people throughout the world, which is associated with higher mortality.  Astronauts traveling in space experience decreased cardiac function, manifested as dizziness and shortness of breath.  Simultaneously, they exhibit aberrant immune system gene expression patterns, which predispose them to infections both in space, and upon return to Earth.  The goal of this project is to define the expression patterns of inflammatory markers associated with viral infection of the human heart.  These analyses will provide a better understanding of molecular mechanisms that underlie cardiac disease, which may guide future diagnostic outcomes.”

Benjamin Martinez
Wesleyan University
An Unbiased Survey of Black Hole Activity in the Local Universe

“Cosmological simulations have shown that the fraction of low-mass galaxies in today’s universe that contain a nuclear black hole is directly related to the mechanism by which massive black hole seeds formed in the early universe. We have obtained optical emission-line measurements for an unbiased sample of local galaxies using a variety of instruments and will separate the objects into four distinct activity classes. We must remove continuum features from our spectra via the process of starlight subtraction, and examine X-ray and near-IR source catalogs for additional evidence of black-hole accretion to create a comprehensive picture of black hole activity in the nearby universe.”

Sarah Myrick
University of Connecticut
Titanium Metallurgy on the Moon

“Titanium alloys are highly desirable for aerospace applications because of their lightweight, high specific strength and corrosion resistance. Fortunately, it is known that the moon is rich in titanium ore, which can be extracted and processed in ceramic crucibles using concentrated solar energy. Manufacturing of goods using readily available resources in space would significantly reduce transportation costs. Nonetheless, one major challenge in titanium metallurgy is metal-mold reactions. My goal is to examine the use of the novel ceramic oxide perovskite–Strontium zirconate– as a mold material, because it shows a notably low thermal conductivity and high chemical stability.”

Kimberly Paragas
Wesleyan University
Gas Giant Atmospheric Mass Loss

“Atmospheric mass loss is one of two aspects that influence the evolution of planets, making it essential for understanding their origin. The helium 1083 nm line offers insight into the atmospheric escape of close-in exoplanets, which significantly sculpts their population. This project aims to detect excess helium absorption in the atmosphere of the gas giant HAT-P-18b and estimate its present-day mass loss rate by using transit observations taken with an ultra-narrow band filter. The outcome of this project will provide valuable data for constraining mechanisms of mass loss, as helium outflows have only been detected in 5-6 planets to date.”

Kiarra Richardson
University of New Haven
Harnessing Microenvironment Regulation of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells (hMSCs) Differentiation in Simulated Microgravity

“One of the essential problems that astronauts need to overcome during prolonged space travel is osteoporosis-like bone mass loss. Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) based therapy is an attractive tool for bone tissue engineering and regeneration. In this project, I will investigate how microenvironments, including substrate stiffness and geometry guidance, affect osteogenic differentiation in a simulated microgravity. The outcome of this project will provide fundamental understanding of osteogenic differentiation and aid in the prevention of bone loss, not only in microgravity but also potentially in age-related osteoporosis.”

Mason Tea
Wesleyan University
Analysis, Characterization and Variability of Local, Accreting X-ray Binaries with Archival Chandra Observations

“Compact objects are often found in binary systems, emitting X-ray radiation from plasma in their accretion disks as they siphon material from a donor star. Observations of these X-ray binaries (XRBs) in nearby galaxies provide the best opportunity to study gravitational effects of compact objects on their environment and the high-energy physics powering their emission. In performing a detailed spectral & temporal analysis of the roughly 80 brightest X-ray sources within 15 Mpc, I hope to assess their spectral state and variability in order to more accurately constrain the parameter space and local population of XRBs and black hole binaries (BHBs).”

Molly Watstein
Wesleyan University
New Insights into AGN Unification from NuSTAR Observations of Nearby Seyfert 2 Galaxies

“Recent X-ray studies have reported a correlation between accretion rate and the presence of a hidden broad-line region in obscured active galactic nuclei (AGNs), suggesting that a substantial revision of the unified model for AGNs is needed. These investigations, however, were based on soft X-ray data, which are unreliable for determining intrinsic luminosities and accretion rates in such objects. Using NuSTAR data in the hard 3-80 keV band, I will determine the intrinsic X-ray luminosities of a large sample of obscured AGNs that have sensitive Keck spectropolarimetry observations, which will afford a definitive test of the accretion-rate hypothesis.”

Student Project

Zachary Andalman
Yale University
Active-Adjustment Ornithopter

“An ornithopter is a flying machine which generates thrust and lift by imitating the flapping motion of birds. While ornithopters have greater maneuverability and stealth compared to traditional aircraft, they are much less efficient. The Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA) will design and build an ornithopter using active adjustment systems to improve efficiency. Active adjustment systems allow the ornithopter to adapt to conditions in real time using on-board sensors and microcontrollers. YUAA will also utilize aerodynamics simulation software to optimize the mechanical design. The project will require a combination of engineering precision and creativity.”

Samuel Dorman
Fairfield University
Integration of an Automated Jewelry Unpacking Method in Production

“Biomerics NLE is a company which engraves thousands of bracelet charms every week. The charms arrive individually packed in a protective film and arrive in boxes of well over 100 charms. Our task is to design a fully automated machine responsible for passing the charm bags through the system and ultimately discarding the protective bag and the tag that is attached while the charm is placed in a plastic sorting tray. The tray contains a matrix of one hundred charms and is easily stacked, thus allowing the charms to be easily moved to the next step in the engraving process.”

Saachi Grewal
Yale University
Rover with Robotic Arm

“Rovers and other unmanned vehicles allow humans to explore new places and learn more about our cosmic surroundings in places a human cannot safely venture at present. Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA) will design and build a rover with a robotic arm, able to move and perform tasks through remote operation. We will attempt high levels of engineering precision to create a rover with custom built parts, suspension kinematics, a functional robotic arm, and mechanical and electrical integration. The project has adapted due to Covid-19 restrictions and allows members working remotely across the USA access to engineering.”

Ohsafa Harding
Fairfield University
Assistive Robotic Arm for Wheelchairs

“The “Robotic arm for wheelchair users” enables a person in a wheelchair with limited mobility to perform daily functions such as picking up and placing objects and opening doors. The arm will be suitably mounted on a wheelchair. To keep the cost of the product low, the structure of the arm will be 3D printed. The robotic arm will have five degrees of freedom, using DC and servo motors and featuring 2 elbow joints, 2 revolute joints, and a gripper mechanism. The arm will be manipulated using a repurposed user interface such as a game controller.”

Patrick Meagher
University of Connecticut
Measurement of Dodecane Droplet Combustion Under Microgravity Conditions Achieved Via Sounding Rocket as Part of 2021 Spaceport America Cup

“This project measures the liquid surface regression rate of a dodecane droplet burning under microgravity conditions. Remote visual observations as well as pressure, temperature, and local acceleration will be recorded using a specially developed microcontroller. The experiment will be packaged into a student built hardened payload fitting a 3 CubeSat formfactor. Microgravity is achieved by flying the payload to a target apogee of 30,000 feet aboard a student manufactured sounding rocket as part of the 2021 Spaceport America Cup. The rocket is propelled by a student researched and developed 39,000 newton-second solid rocket motor.”

Robert Merlino
Fairfield University
Investigation of Sand Ingestion in Aircraft Combustor Liner

“The combustor liner in a turbine engine consists of effusion cooling holes that allow air to pass through them and keep the liner itself cool. When sand and other particles enter these holes, they may block or stick to the holes, decreasing the engine’s ability to control its temperature. This creates obvious issues for safety and could potentially blur cooling requirements for such engines. It is the goal of this project to examine the effect different surface roughness values of the holes due to common machining processes have on the rate of particle buildup and in turn airflow blockage.”

Audrey Whitmer
Yale University
IREC Rocket 2021

“The Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA) is devoted to helping undergraduates pursue their passion for aerospace. The Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) at Spaceport America helps us achieve our mission. This year, we will continue research on designing our own solid fuel rocket motor, exploring the thermochemistry of combustion. Additionally, we will finish constructing a composite 2-stage rocket with innovative fabrication techniques to propel it to 30,000 feet above ground level, where redundant onboard electronics will deploy parachutes to safely recover the rocket and rover payload. This innovative rocket will be flown at IREC during the summer of 2021.”

Hannah Zukowski
Trinity College
System Design and Spectral Analysis of Turbulence in Blood Flow for Aortic Valve Stenosis

“Aortic valve stenosis is caused by the narrowing of the aortic valve located between the left ventricle and aorta. We propose to investigate a quantitative analysis of sound signals produced by a similar system, enabling a repeatable and unbiased diagnosis of the severity of a narrowing. The goal of this project is to identify a relationship between the severity of valve stenosis and the frequencies of sound signals due to pulsatile flow through the valve. This research aligns with NASA’s Mission Directorate for STEM research and engagement as it will provide us with experience researching mechanical, electrical, and biological systems.”

Graduate Research Fellowship

Zachary Lane
Central Connecticut State University
Syntrophy within Ferroglobus placidus and Other Archaea Species

“In the beginning, Earth was devoid of oxygen and was comprised mostly of metal reducing organisms. Ferroglobus placidus, an isolated archaea from a submarine hydrothermal vent, is a hyperthermophile that reduces Fe(III) to Fe(II) and has been shown to be able to utilize specialized shuttles for growth. Through shuttle-mediated interspecies electron transfer, two separate species can use this shuttle to generate a syntrophic relationship. In this study, we propose to investigate the mechanisms of syntrophy between two sets of hyperthermophiles. Results will aid NASA’s goal to further research the “origin of life on earth and the search for life elsewhere”.”

Jonathan Mercedes-Feliz
University of Connecticut
Improving Supermassive Black Hole Accretion Models with Cosmological Hyper-refinement Simulations

“Understanding the connection between massive black holes and their host galaxies remains an unsolved problem in astrophysics. I propose to investigate the physical mechanisms that drive black hole growth by using new ultra-high resolution simulations that for the first time, resolve transport of gas down to sub-parsec scales in a fully cosmological context. I will test predictions of popular sub-grid accretion models against gas inflow rates explicitly resolved at sub-pc scales in simulations for different physical conditions. These results will be used to identify the most promising mechanisms to develop an improved accretion model for future large volume cosmological simulations.”

Javier Portillo
Yale University
RNA Polymerase Ribozyme Evolution and the Origins of Life on Earth

“Early in Earth’s history, during the “RNA World,” it is hypothesized that an RNA may have had the ability to self-replicate via RNA-polymerization and been able to support primordial RNA populations and RNA genomes. However, a self-replicating RNA has yet to be discovered. Here, we aim to create highly efficient RNA polymerases using in vitro selection methods coupled with next-generation sequencing to experimentally investigate the origin and evolution of RNA-based life. The creation of an RNA self-replicase offers a glimpse into how life may have originated on Earth and provides a path to creating synthetic life in a test tube.”

Undergraduate Scholarship

Stephanie Brij-Raj
Fairfield University

Nathan Green
University of Hartford

Anthony Ragazzi
Trinity College  

Skyler Szot
Trinity College

Erkin Verbeek
Trinity College

Community College Transfer Scholarship

Caleigh Dodge
Central Connecticut State University

Nhat Pham
University of Bridgeport

Jaime Torres-Latorre
Central Connecticut State University

Community College Scholarship

Daniel Gaewski
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Ashley Indrisek
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Spring 2020 Student Award Recipients

Graduate Research Fellowship

Logan Fries
University of Connecticut
Tidal Features in Merging Galaxies at z ~ 0: Quantifying their Color and Mass-Ratio

Gravitational interactions between galaxies are predicted to produce tidal features during the first close passage and the final merging phases. We present a study to analyze the optical color of tidal features from a sample of 56 post-mergers from Weston et al. (2017) (Mstellar > 2 x 10^10 M, z < 0.08) We plan to analyze the SDSS ugriz images using a new morphological substructure extraction and quantification method by Mantha et al. (2019) which reliably extracts low surface brightness features. Ultimately, we hope
to distinguish whether tidal streams come from a wet or dry merger remnant which will help to estimate the makeup of the ages of stars within the streams.

Katie Stubbs
Wesleyan University
Characterization of volatile zonation in lunar apatite and britholite

Lunar apatite and britholite, minerals found in rocks formed by late cooling of magma, is important for learning about water and its history on your moon. By investigating the spatial zoning of elements like REEs, chlorine, fluorine, sulfur, and others, we can determine if they made their way into their crystal structure by typical crystal fractionation (volcanic cooling) or by metasomatism (hot water delivering elements after the crystal has already formed). This fits into NASA’s Science Directorate by uncovering more of the moon’s history, and especially investigating how water behaves in volcanic processes

William Theune
University of New Haven
Investigating the role of the neuroprotective gene adnp in neuronal development and maintenance

Exposure to radiation and microgravity can contribute to increased risk of neurodegeneration. This proposal aims to examine the role that the activity-dependent neuroprotector (ADNP) gene plays in neuronal development and maintenance. ADNP/ADNP-derived peptide NAP has been shown to provide neuroprotection, and mutations in adnp are associated with Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism and neurodevelopmental disorders. I propose to 1) generate adnp knockout and overexpression zebrafish models to characterize adnp function in neurogenesis and 2) decipher gene regulatory networks regulated by adnp through transcriptome analysis. This work will provide valuable insights for mitigating harmful effects of cosmic radiation and microgravity during space travel.

Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Maeve Cantwell
University of Hartford
Nozzle noise: Simulation for jet engines

A rectangular mixer-ejector nozzle will be explored with the ultimate goal of achieving jet noise reduction for various aircraft concepts. The proposed research will employ Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and Computational Aeroacoustics (CAA) to assess the performance of an 8:1 aspect ratio rectangular nozzle used together with a simple ejector box. Flow quantities will be evaluated as a function of geometric parameters with and without mixing tabs. The goals are to: (1) validate simulation results with the experimental data from NASA Glenn Research Center, (2) pursue further modifications in mixer-ejector nozzle geometry, and (3) reduce noise in jet engines.

Grace Percival
University of Connecticut
Correlations between Supermassive Black Hole accretion rates and fundamental properties

Since the turn of the century, black holes have confounded scientists, trapping everything that falls inside of their event horizon, including light. Given their integral role in the evolution of galaxies, understanding black hole behavior could yield important insights into the early Universe. Using fundamental properties, such as black hole mass, spin, and accretion rate, to understand what makes a black hole active or quiescent could be the key to uncovering larger truths about the cosmos.

Undergraduate Scholarship

Anthony Cammuso
Central Connecticut State University

Matthew Iossa
Central Connecticut State University

Community College Scholarship

Derlyn Hernandez
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Fall 2019 Student Award Recipients

Graduate Research Fellowship

Cecelia Harold
Yale University
Defining a new understanding of breast cancer development in women for long-term space missions

       Radiation exposure astronauts face is a critical consideration for safe space missions. This is especially important for NASA’s plan to expand human presence in deeper space. A compelling aspect of risk assessment is to define the molecular determinants of gender-based cancer predisposition. One determinant is prolactin, important for breast development and lactation. Increased prolactin expression in pre-menopausal women increases predisposition to breast cancer. This project seeks to understand why prolactin predisposes women to breast cancer. This builds into the larger goal of 1
understanding how gender affects cancer occurrence to develop safety guidelines for not only astronauts, but the overall community. 

Laura Logozzo
Yale University
Illuminating riverine dissolved organic carbon dynamics and export using carbon age

       DOC is one of the largest carbon reservoirs globally, but its sources are poorly quantified. Carbon age indicates whether DOC is sourced from surface soils or deeper sequestered soils. I will estimate DOC age and flux on the Connecticut River seasonally and long-term using 14C. This will address when in the year older DOC is mobilized in rivers, and whether there is an overall trend towards older DOC. The project addresses NASA’s strategic goal “understanding the sun, earth, solar system, and universe,” since carbon is an essential element to life and climate, and this project will constrain riverine carbon sources.

 

Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Fallon Konow
Wesleyan University
Constructing a Survey of the Local Interstellar Medium using Hubble Spectra

       The cool gas and dust clouds that make up half of the visible matter within galaxies is referred to as the Interstellar Medium (ISM). Understanding the composition and dynamic nature of the local (within 100 pc) ISM (LISM) is extremely important because of its proximity and interaction with our solar system, and its necessity in ensuring other astronomical observations are accurately accounting for extinction. Because of their importance I hope to identify the presence of LISM clouds as well as determine clouds’ particular radial velocity and elemental abundance in order to make a more accurate survey of every LISM cloud. 

Nicole Karpinski
Central Connecticut State University
Uncovering mechanisms of direct metal-microbe iron corrosion by Geobacter metallireducens

       Microbial corrosion costs global industries billions of dollars a year, yet physiological mechanisms microbes use to induce corrosion are largely unknown. Recently it has been shown that electricity producing Geobacter species are capable of directly taking up electrons from metal surfaces and inducing bio-corrosion. In this study, gene and protein expression analyses, as well as laboratory adaptive evolution, will be used to identify extracellular components involved in direct metal corrosion by Geobacter metallireducens. Findings from this study will be useful towards combating, managing, and preventing corrosion, which is a focus for the NASA Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology Strategic Enterprise.

Aikaterini Stylianides
University of Hartford
Computational Aeroacoustics of a Coaxial Jet Engine Nozzle

       Jet noise is a major contributor to engine noise, especially during take-off. A typical multi-stream jet engine nozzle is annular with structural members (struts) holding various components of the nozzle together. Struts are designed to cause minimally disturb the ow, but may behave as bluff bodies with unsteady wakes. This research focuses on modeling a 3-strut nozzle using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and Computational Aeroacoustics (CAA). The nozzle will be studied under varying ow properties and multiple acoustic conditions. This will allow for the validation of similar models as well as provide a tool for future researchers to utilize.

 

 

Student Projects

DeShawn Adams

Trinity College
Harvesting Useful Work from Ocean Waves

       The US government estimates that 71% of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, with the ocean holding about 96.5 percent of Earth’s water. This 96.5 percent of water produces waves full of useful energy. An average 4-foot, 10-second wave striking a coast puts out more than 35,000 horsepower per mile of coast, horsepower we can utilize. Our mission is to explore current designs for a system that converts energy generated from sea waves into useful work, and to synthesize these designs to develop a unique system that maximizes the work output at a reasonable cost for global distribution.

Theo Evers
Yale University
Payload Rover

       Rovers and other unmanned vehicles expand the reaches of human understanding through exploration of areas inhospitable to human habitation. Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA) has in the past produced numerous vehicles of this sort but this project will be significantly different. YUAA will design and build for the first time a vehicle that will be deployed from a rocket. All of YUAA’s previous models were conveyed by hand to their mission sites. Deploying the rover remotely via rocket will add significant hurdles that our team must overcome. We will need to develop new strategies and designs to accomplish our task.  

Alexander Hoganson
Yale University
IREC Rocket 2020

      The Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA) is devoted to helping undergraduates pursue their passion for aerospace. The Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) at Spaceport America helps us achieve our mission. This year, we will be focusing research on designing our own solid fuel rocket motor, exploring the thermochemistry and physics of combustion. The objective of our student researched and designed solid fuel motor is to propel a lightweight, high-fidelity composite rocket built with innovative fabrication techniques to 10,000 feet above ground level, where redundant onboard electronics will deploy parachutes to safely recover the rocket and rover payload.

Scotty Parajon
Yale University
Developing a Guided Parafoil Payload Return System for the HAB to Create a High Altitude Experimentation Platform

       Prior YUAA experimentation with high altitude balloons has seen great success with launching, tracking, and collecting data at high altitudes. However, due to Connecticut’s geographical location, there is a high risk of losing our payload and instruments if they are blown into the Atlantic. Thus, to ensure ability to recover of the payload in all circumstances, I propose a guided parafoil system to allow the payload to land safely. This would also allow YUAA to take full advantage of the high cost-efficacy of balloon launches and to utilize them as a testbed for all future prototype high altitude scientific experiments.

Gordon Perrett
Central Connecticut State University
Solar Panel Design to Maximize Efficiency

       The project is to create a solar panel that will increase the efficiency of the panel without improvements being made to the solar cell. This project will utilize a combination of techniques to maximize the amount of light a solar panel can collect and minimizing the Panels footprint. The system will consist of three components: a system that will follow the sun, a system that will change the geometry of the panel to maximize light capture, and a cooling system.

Keith McHugh
Fairfield University
Device to Convert Plastic Bottles into Household Objects

       The use and disposal of plastic everyday is damaging to the environment as only 9% is recycled currently. The goal of this project is to design and fabricate a desktop device that will allow to remanufacture used plastic bottles for other applications like 3-D printing lament. The device is capable of taking in plastic bottles of varying sizes and turn them into long bands of plastic that can be used for other applications. This objective is in line with strategic mission of NASA for sustainable long term space exploration and is compact enough to be included in space missions.

Colette Scheffers
Trinity College
Quantitative Characterization and Model Design Analysis of Heart Murmurs

       We will mimic ow conditions contributing to heart murmurs to find quantitative data that will confirm the grade of the murmur. After creating simulations in COMSOL Multiphysics, we will design and build a pulsatile pump system to measure the ow’s acoustic movement and quantitatively determine murmur severity. This project applies to health monitoring and treatment, giving patients confidence in a correct diagnosis and allowing heart murmurs to be characterized in potentially remote locations. Specifically, this work could better determine the cardiovascular health of astronauts, provide risk reduction, conduct health monitoring, and help NASA ensure the long-term success of their programs.

 

Student Travel

Kyle Lingard
Central Connecticut State University
Gordon Research Seminar and Conference at Hotel Galvez

Mitchell Owen
Fairfield University
Federal Aviation Administration, William J. Hughes Technical Center

Maxime Parent
Eastern Connecticut State University
Butler University, Indianapolis IN

Hunter Vannier
Wesleyan University
Honolulu, Hawaii

Undergraduate Scholarship

Jack Breton
University of Hartford

Salena Hingorani
Fairfield University

Emma Hintz
Central Connecticut State University

Derek Kuldinow
Yale University

Maxime Parent
Eastern Connecticut State University

Gordon Perrett
Central Connecticut State University

Mason Tea
Wesleyan University

Community College Transfer Scholarship

Savannah LaPerriere
Central Connecticut State University

Adairez Nieves
Central Connecticut State University

Community College Scholarship

Nathan Benham

Northwestern Connecticut Community College

Angel Green
Capitol Community College

Stephanie Tripodi
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Spring 2019 Student Award Recipients

Graduate Research Fellowship

Alexandra Garza
University of New Haven
Zebrafish as a Model for Genetic Compensation to Counteract the Negative Impacts of Increased
Mutational Load on Humans in Space

The impact of radiation on astronauts is a significant concern for space travel. One
proposed mechanism to combat the mutational load associated with this radiation is genetic
compensation. This compensation allows an organism to upregulate similar genes to compensate
a mutated gene for its functional loss. This proposed research aims to use zebrafish as a model to
assess the degree of sequence similarity required for genetic compensation, and to further
characterize the role of upf1 in this pathway. Overall, this work will point to potential strategies
to counteract the negative impacts of increased mutational load on humans in space.

Cory Jubinville
University of Connecticut
Evaluation of Novel Genetic Enhancer Elements in Muscle Regeneration by CRISPR-Cas9 Editing

Extensive skeletal muscle atrophy experienced after short periods in low-gravity
exhibits a significant obstacle to NASA’s strategic goal of maintaining constant human
presence in low-Earth orbit, and deep space exploration. Muscle maintenance and
regeneration by muscle stem cells combats muscle atrophy upon activation of genetic
myogenic programming. However, understanding genetic regulation of genes crucial to
muscle stem cell activation, such as myoD, remains elusive. This project evaluates novel
regulatory enhancer element influence on myoD by disrupting predicted enhancers via
CRISPR-Cas9 editing. Understanding genetic regulation of muscle stem cell activation will
set the foundation for targeted interventions remediating spaceflight-associated muscle
atrophy.

Malena Rice
Yale University
Asteroid Occultations Using a Large Network of Small Telescopes

We explore the feasibility of and present initial designs for a large network of small telescopes
purpose-built to monitor stars for occultations by solar system minor planets. Precise
measurements of the orbits of minor planets, achievable with this network, will provide critical
clues about perturbations by other objects in the solar system, constraining the
abundance/distribution of as-yet undiscovered asteroids, moons, and planets (such as the
proposed Planet Nine). Such a network directly addresses NASA’s strategic goal to “expand
human knowledge through new scientific discoveries” by studying the architecture of the solar
system to understand planetary system formation more generally.

Jeffrey Steiner
University of Connecticut
Proposed Habitat Design and Analysis Methodology for Various Locations on the Lunar Surface

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has established that a long-term human presence in orbit around, and on the moon, is a significant focus in the development of space exploration. The objective of this project is to develop a methodology of analysis which is applicable to habitats constructed in various locations on the lunar surface. This methodology will address the effects of temperature cycling, micrometeoroid impact, and radiation exposure on any future habitats, built with various methods of construction. The methodology will be validated by designing a proposed lunar habitat which utilizes prefabricated composite layers shielding a dome-shaped frame.

Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Sean Byrne
Central Connecticut State University
Mass measurement of the faintest quiescent black hole binary system

Black hole research applies to NASA’s astrophysics roadmap from 2013. In section 4.2 of the roadmap under the question “how does our universe work?”, black holes are the subject matter for extremes. We will be obtaining five orbital light curves of the black hole binary system XTE 1118+480. This stellar massive black hole has the shortest confirmed orbital period; four hours. The binary pair also has the lowest quiescent accretion rate. With the light curve and orbital period, we will estimate the orbital inclination and find a precise mass ratio and distance. This information will help us study X-ray transients.

Emily Hughes
Wesleyan University
Experimental Evaporation of Martian Brines to Determine Spectroscopic Signatures

A central element of NASA’s strategic plan is the quest for the discovery of life on Mars via rover
and orbiter missions. Stable liquid water is often considered the necessary precursor to life. Brines,
with depressed eutectic temperatures, are the most promising form in which liquid water may be
stable on the Martian surface. We will experimentally create, and evaporate, Martian analogue
brines in a Mars chamber, and obtain Visible-Near Infrared (VNIR) spectra from these brines,
which we can compare to CRISM data. This aids in determining the validity and potential locations
of stable liquid water on the Martian surface.

Anthony Ragazzi
Trinity College
An Embedded System to Monitor the Breathing Condition of Astronauts Using Wireless Data Transmission and Machine Learning

The underlying research proposes to build an embedded system that uses adaptive
supervised machine learning to evaluate breathing signals of astronauts. The signals will be
measured with an abdominal strain gauge and transmitted to the main processing station using
wireless communication (i.e., Bluetooth) for further analysis. Breathing features will be extracted
using in-house developed algorithms and analyzed via supervised machine learning to classify
breathing measurements to: normal breathing, breathing with body movement, movement
without breathing, apnea or loss of sensor connection. The proposed design provides real-time
monitoring of an astronaut’s health condition and generates timely warnings when unexpected
urgencies emerge.

Andrew Reardon
Yale University
Natural Teleoperation of a Robot Arm Using a Sensory Sleeve

Given the danger of spacewalks, decreasing the number of hours astronauts spend outside of the spacecraft is imperative for crew safety. Towards this objective, I propose a method using natural human motion to control a robot arm. Specifically, I will use stretchable sensors embedded in a sleeve to measure an operator’s arm position to teleoperate a robot arm for remote repairs and upgrades of spacecraft. The soft sensors are flexible, washable, and do not impede movement. The outcome of my proposed work will be a wearable sensory sleeve for robot teleoperation to address NASA’s technology thrust in Remote Interaction.

Brenna Roberston
University of Connecticut
Fitting Observed Spectral Energy Distributions to Determine Black Hole Spin

The pursuit of new knowledge about the universe has been a driving force in scientific discovery.
One of the most mysterious objects in the universe are supermassive black holes, which have
recently been found to be at the center of all galaxies. Growth of central black holes is highly
correlated to galaxy evolution and feedback, so learning fundamental properties such as mass,
spin, and accretion rate are crucial to understanding much larger astrophysical phenomena. In order
to determine black hole spin, we will fit theoretical models to observed spectral energy
distributions.

Student Project

Alexander Kavadas
Central Connecticut State University
Modular Collision Avoidance System For Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

The proposed project is to create a stand-alone collision avoidance system for UAVs that will allow for pilots to receive feedback on their position relative to the various obstacles experienced in average UAV missions. The system will work off of feedback controls to designate certain distances between the UAV and the obstacle as safe or dangerous. The system will consist of two components: the system that is attached to the drone, and the ground unit.

Donovan Ross Palmer
Trinity College
Land-based autonomous navigation vehicle

This design project seeks to create an artificially intelligent land-based vehicle capable of autonomous navigation and real-time mapping of its surrounding environment. The objective is to have the robot be capable of self-localization using mobile mapping and GPS waypoints, maneuver around any physical obstruction, and be able to respond to other outside stimuli when necessary. Unmanned vehicles provide opportunity to tackle NASA’s mission of space exploration and scientific discovery as it is imperative that if we are not the ones exploring the universe, that we have technology with artificial intelligence do it for us.

Abigail Ridler
Eastern Connecticut State University
The effects of dietary antioxidants on the development of insulin resistance in hindlimb suspended mice

Astronauts in space often face complications of muscle atrophy and metabolic stress. One such
problem is the development of insulin resistance due to the build-up of reactive oxygen species
(ROS) and glycogen in weight-bearing muscles. This study aims to determine the effects of
dietary antioxidants on glycogen stores, the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and
insulin resistance in hindlimb-suspended mice, using glucose tolerance tests and glycogen and
superoxide dismutase assays. The results of this study can then be used in the formulation of
diets for astronauts in order to reduce oxidative damage, and possibly increase space exploration
lengths.

Student Travel

Arun Malla
University of Connecticut
Engineering Mechanics Institute 2019, at California Institute of Technology

 

Undergraduate Scholarship

Lukas Corey
Yale University

Alexander Henton
Wesleyan University

Alisa Levin
Trinity College

Keduse Worku
Yale University

Isabella Yung
Trinity College


Community College Transfer Scholarship

Debora Cruz
Central Connecticut State University

Caleigh Dodge
Central Connecticut State University

Amara Falotico
Central Connecticut State University

Jacob Parent
University of Connecticut

Ashton Stephens
University of Connecticut


Community College Scholarship

Zachary Dezeil
Three Rivers Community College

Jimmy Mendoza
Middlesex Community College

Miguel Montijo
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Elizabeth Schneider
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Fall 2018 Student Award Recipients

Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Patrick Dubiel
University of Hartford
Numerical Calculation of a Cobra Probe
“The three-hole cobra-head pressure probe (THP) uses calibration curves to accurately measure a fluids total and static pressure as well as its flow swirl angle. These calibration curves are created while using air as the working fluid. The project proposed will investigate how the change of the working fluid affects these curves. These curves will be produced by creating a CFD model that replicates the calibration procedure. These calibration curves will then be compared to see if the curves produced for air are accurate for the new working fluid or, if a relation between the two working fluids needs to be determined to be able to use the original calibration accurately.”

Russell Moore
Fairfield University
Pixel-Level Image Fusion Algorithms to EO/IR Multi-Sensor System
“Since the Cold War, the United States has relied on reconnaissance satellites for the safety of its citizens. Our research will add to this effort, using multiple images from electro-optical sensors and fusing them for the purpose of target tracking. Satellite imaging can provide surveillance of an area and capture data otherwise inaccessible through other sensors or methods. This project researches and develops an improved algorithm for target tracking.  Improving this technology will undoubtedly benefit global efforts to study and monitor our planet, which aligns with NASA’s strategic goal of driving new advances in aerospace science and technology.”

Skyler Szot
Trinity College
Helicopter Vibration Analysis Through Spectral and Chaotic Analysis
“This project seeks to study servo-flap helicopter vibration data during hover and forward flights utilizing both MATLAB and FORTRAN. A linear power spectral analysis will be implemented to compute the magnitudes of helicopter vibration in harmonics of its fundamental rotating frequency, in order to capture the dynamic behavior as a servo-flap helicopter alters its flight condition. A chaotic analysis approach will also be used to provide information regarding the fractal dimension that is not possible to obtain using traditional linear approaches. The results obtained from these analyses will generate useful data for the further development of aviation systems by NASA.”

Hunter Vannier
Wesleyan University
Using Hubble to Look Back at the Sun’s Historical Trajectory Through the Local Interstellar Medium
“The local interstellar medium (LISM) is a diverse place of various densities and elemental components. We do not fully understand how these clouds of interstellar gas and dust influence our solar system’s heliosphere and in turn its influence on The Earth and other planets in our solar system. Because the outward moving solar wind is contained by the LISM, the density of the LISM is an important constraint on the understanding of this interaction. Using UV data obtained from the Hubble Space Telescope on eight individual stars within <50 pc from the Sun, we observed absorption features in almost every one. This sample of is along our Sun’s historical solar trajectory, so the outcome of this project would aid in a better understanding of how the composition and density of LISM may have contributed to the shrinking or expansion of the heliosphere and in turn how it may have affected the atmosphere and even biological evolution on Earth on a timescale of four to five million years. “

Zhengdong Wang
Yale University
Using Generative Networks to Derive Causal Features of Weak Lensing Convergence
“This fellowship will use new machine learning techniques to generate weak lensing convergence maps. In the process, the neural networks will learn fundamental, independent causal features for why mass is dispersed through space the way it is. These insights will help answer deep questions about cosmology, advancing NASA’s core decadal science goals. The machine learning experience gained from this fellowship will support future NASA data pipelines, mission operations, and status as the world leader in space technologies.”

 


Undergraduate Scholarship

Julia Burch
Central Connecticut State University

Joyce Caliendo
University of Connecticut

Michael Kohler
University of Hartford

Leah Lansdowne
University of New Haven

Hetal Petal
University of Connecticut

Genesis Paz
University of Bridgeport

Donovan Palmer
Trinity College

Simran Sehgal
University of Connecticut

Alexandra Sinson
Trinity College

Jonathan Stanford
University of New Haven

Austin Thomas
University of New Haven


Community College Transfer Scholarship

Paige Dowding
Central Connecticut State University


Community College Scholarship

Julio Acosta-Silverio
Capital Community College

Micalyia Douglas
Capital Community College

Trajada Jackson
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Joel Limieux
Northwestern Connecticut Community College

Cindy Otchere
Capital Community College

Alondra Torres
Capital Community College

Linda Vossler
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Kale Williams
Naugatuck Valley Community College

 

Project Grant

Lincoln Berkley
Yale University
“Collaborative Rovers for Planetary Exploration”

Jackson Ceme
University of New Haven
“Studying Viscosity and Elasticity of Silicone Elastomers for Space Seal Applications”

Ian Denzer
Yale University
“Ornithopter”

Hanna Engstrom
Trinity College
“Flow Monitoring for Infusion Therapy”

Alicia Kacharia
Yale University
“Solar Powered High Altitude Payload Balloon”

David Norris
University of Hartford
“Liquid Fueled Rocket Flight Control System”

Keshav Raghavan
Yale University
“CubeSat Cosmic Ray Observatory”

Katherine Unfried
Fairfield University
“Lend a Hand (Lightweight Low Noise Prosthetic Hand)”

 

Student Travel

Michael Boyle
Yale University

Jovelt Dorsainvil
Fairfield University

Michael Henderson
Wesleyan University

Ismael Mireles
Wesleyan University

Benjamin Rumrill
Eastern Connecticut State University

Anthony Santini
Wesleyan University

Summer 2018 Student Award Recipients


Internship Award Recipients

DeShawn Adams
Trinity College
Education Internship
Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT)

Jacob Dayton
Eastern Connecticut State University
Laboratory Internship
The Jackson Laboratory

Stephen DeRosa
University of Hartford
Industrial Internship
United Technologies Aerospace Systems

Dina DiGiacomo
University of Connecticut
Industrial Internship
Synovel Laboratory

Giselle Koo
Tunxis Community College
Education Internship
Discovery Museum and Planetarium

Jacob Kowalski
University of Connecticut
NASA Academy Internship
Ames Research Center

James Laudon
Quinebaug Valley Community College
Industrial Internship
Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT)

Zachary Ouellete
Central Connecticut State University
Education Internship
Connecticut Science Center

Austin Thomas
University of New Haven
NASA Academy Internship
Goddard Space Flight Center

Spring 2018 Student Award Recipients


Graduate Research Fellowship

Sarah Arveson
Yale University
“Sulfur at Extreme Conditions: Exploring the Interiors of lo and Sulfur-Rich Planets”
Sulfur plays an integral role on Jupiter’s volcanically active moon, Io, where sulfur-dominated plumes erupt to heights of 500 kilometers above the surface. As such, sulfur is an important component in the subsurface of Io, though the high-pressure properties of sulfur remain poorly understood. Additionally, a number of exoplanets exhibit sulfur-rich atmospheres. I propose to determine sulfur’s phase diagram at planetary interior conditions. These experiments will provide insight and expand knowledge of the evolution of bodies within our Solar System and beyond in accordance with goal 1 and objective 1.1 set forth in NASA’s 2018 Strategic Plan.

Sara Molly Wagner
Wesleyan University
“Early Planetary Degassing: An Example at Newberry Volcano, Oregon”
How did volatiles accrete in the rocky materials of early Earth? Some plume volcanoes carry chemical signatures that bear strong resemblances to a primordial Earth. I am studying emission rates of trace volatile mercury and volcanic CO2 at Newberry Volcano, Oregon. I aim to track how much of these species is released by the volcano and injected into a crater lake. Mercury is largely stored in sediments whereas CO2 is released as a surface flux from the lake. Detailed chemical data on sediment and CO2 fluxes will allow me to calculate a Hg/CO2 value that may represent the primordial Earth. I will compare the obtained ratios with Hg and C analyses of suites of meteorites.


Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Jonathan Brown
University of Hartford
“Acoustic Analysis of Spike Inlet Auxillary Doors on Fan Noise Radiation”
Commercial supersonic aircraft are becoming a reality again as technology continues to move closer to a realizable aircraft. While the engines are designed for peak efficiency at Mach 2, they must also operate at subsonic speeds. When flying at subsonic conditions, engine noise becomes the largest contributor to the overall noise of the aircraft. A computational acoustic analysis will be completed on a commercial supersonic engine inlet with a spike center-body. This project will develop computational methodologies to characterize the radiated acoustics with the auxiliary doors open and closed. This work directly supports Thrust 2 of the NASA Strategic Implementation Plan 2017.

Sam Cutler
University of Connecticut
“Examining High Redshift Rotation Curve Outside the Local Universe”
Examination of galactic rotation curves in the local universe has yielded evidence of both cusp and core type dark matter profiles. We present one of the first studies of a galactic rotation curve for a distant gravitationally-lensed massive, dusty star-forming galaxy, CL2244-1, with a spectroscopic redshift 1.77. Using VLT/XSHOOTER spectroscopy, we perform a 2D spectral analysis of the H$/alpha$ emission. With this rotation curve, we fit a dark matter density profile and determine the functional form of the profile (cusp or core).  Predictions from comparing the shape of the rotation curve of CL2244-1 to that of M33 and other galaxies in the local universe suggest that the dark matter profile of CL2244-1 is best represented by a cuspy profile. Though this cuspy profile supports the cold dark matter cosmological model, we cannot rule out self-interacting dark matter, whose interactions may not have had time to shift the density profile to a core at such early times.

Jeremy Hopwood
Central Connecticut State University
“Design, Implementation, and Wind Tunnel Testing of an Aeroservoelastic Flutter Control System”
The purpose of the proposed research is to successfully design, implement, and test an aeroservoelastic control system to suppress flutter of an aircraft wing using optimal control methods. There are four main objectives of this research. First, an accurate aeroservoelastic model will be developed. Second, the controller will be designed to yield an optimal and stable response past the flutter speed via the minimization the wing’s energy as well as the input energy using state feedback and gain-scheduling by air velocity. Third, the controlled aeroservoelastic model will be simulated, and the stability, time response, and robustness will be validated. Fourth, the control system will by physically implemented on a flexible wing, which will be subjected to wind tunnel testing and analyzed. Through these objectives, the proposed research will contribute to aerospace engineering and bring flexible aircraft concepts closer to the creation of commercially viable high-efficiency, lightweight flexible aircraft.

Nicole Zalewski
Wesleyan University
“Measurement of the Radar Properties of the Oldest Rocks on Venus to Constrain Mineralogy
The proposed research project examines the differences in composition between Venus’ volcanic plains and the elevated terrain of older material of unknown composition. Using radar properties of the terrain, we week to find strong evidence that properties of this older material is consistent with minerals high in silica content, which would only have been able to form on a planet abundant with water. This research would provide valuable information for learning about history of our solar system and how it evolved to its current state, which are currently goals of NASA.

Undergraduate Scholarship

Adrienne Fisher
University of Hartford

Terra Ganey
Wesleyan University

Anthony Machado
University of Connecticut

Chris Shimwell
Eastern Connectcut State University


Community College Transfer Scholarship

Charles Baird
Quinebaug Valley Community College / Eastern Connecticut State University

Rachel Marino
Middlesex Community College / Wesleyan University

Ashton Stephens
Quinebaug Valley Community College / University of Connecticut


Community College Scholarship

Debora Cruz
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Jacob Murphy 
Middlesex Community College


Project Grant

Jazmine Collado
Central Connecticut State University
“K-MAX Helicopter Instrumentation”

December 2017 Student Award Recipients


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.


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

Ryan Avery
Fairfield University

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

Spring 2017 Student Award Recipients

Graduate Research Fellowship

Sarah Arveson
Yale University
“Immiscibility of Molten Iron Alloys in Planetary Cores”
In this research, melting experiments will be performed on Fe-Si-O to understand the physicochemical properties of core materials. Preliminary measurements reveal that immiscible melts are produced at high pressures, providing evidence for stratification that may have been integral in sustaining a dynamo before inner core formation. These experiments will provide insight into planetary core evolution.

Sonia Chavez
University of Connecticut
“Nanocoatings to Increase the Barrier Properties and Thermal Insulation for Aerospace Applications”
This project will focus on developing a nanocoating with outstanding barrier properties and thermal insulation for aerospace products. To do so, inorganic nanosheets [montmorillonite (MMT)] will be used with polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) to form a hybrid nanocoating with a highly ordered structure. In addition to PVA, epoxy will be used as an alternative binder to further improve the properties of the substrate and a crosslinking agent will be used to further bond the components through covalent interactions.

Kierstin Daviau
Yale University
“Identifying Exoplanet Interiors from Atmospheric Signals”
This research will investigate the connection between a planet’s interior and atmosphere using high-pressure/temperature experiments on the oxidation reactions between SiC and SiO2, materials proposed to make up carbon-rich exoplanets. Results will be compared to existing and upcoming exoplanetary atmosphere measurements, and frequency bands will be recommended for observation in order to detect a carbon-planet atmosphere.

Jordyn-Marie Dudley
Wesleyan University
“Characterization of Water in Differentiated Achondrite Parent Bodies”
The objective of this study is to determine the water abundance and hydrogen isotopic compositions of 15 achondrite meteorites, characterize their parents bodies, and determine if they provide evidence of a water-rich accretion. Like NASA’s Space Science enterprise, this study aims to generate and communicate knowledge of the evolution of the universe, solar system, planets and anomalous Earth.

Anthony Patelunas
University of Connecticut
“Determination of the Muscle Stem Cell Lineage by Single-cell Transcriptomics”
This project will characterize transcriptional changes of muscle satellite cell progenitors and identify novel markers for activation such as growth factor receptors. Defining development and identifying markers will enable future targeted approaches to activating and maintaining satellite cells in atrophying skeletal muscle.

Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Lauren Atkinson
Eastern Connecticut State University
“Evaluating the Scorpion Microbiome for Diversity and Antibiotic Production”
Scorpions are routinely exposed to potentially deadly microbes since many of their prey are vectors for deadly pathogens. This study aims to test the diversity of the scorpion microbiome and test for antibiotic production by members of the microbiome. The discovery of new antibiotics would benefit the medical community and space exploration, seeing as antibiotic resistance increases under microgravity and human immune systems weaken during missions.

Louis Cappucci
Trinity College
“Ignition Design and Test for a 3-D Printed Titanium Rocket Engine”
This experimental research project will seek to determine the most robust and reliable system of rocket engine ignition, which will be used to build and test a Titanium alloy 3D printed rocket engine. The purpose of this research is to consider several types of ignition methods and to experimentally determine the superior method based on several design consideration.

Lillian Hyde
Eastern Connecticut State University
“Assessment of Microglia Function in Brain and Blood Microenvironments”
This study will assess if microglia activation differs in cerebrospinal fluid compared to fetal bovine serum. By establishing a baseline for microglia function in their native environment, space travel conditions can eventually be tested to asses its affects on the central nervous system.

Celeste Smith and Paula Tartell
Wesleyan University
“The Newberry Volcano Crater Lakes, OR: Analogs for Ancient Planetary Environments?”
Some volcanic lakes bear strong resemblances to early planetary environments. This research will study such a lake at Newberry volcano in Oregon where the local ecosystem is largely provided for by elements provided by the volcano. With the essential nutrients also come volcanic toxins, in this case mercury. The pathways of mercury and CO2 gas from the subaqueous vents and hot springs into the lake will be determined and the effects of toxic mercury will be assessed.

William Tait
University of Connecticut
“Investigation of Hydrate Sodium Carbonate Powders as a Dry Sorbent for CO2, SOx, and NOx”
This project aims to research hydrated sodium carbonate powders (HSCPs), which are a mixture of sodium carbonate and dry water, a powder that is a silica-coated water-air emulsion, as a dry sorbent for carbon dioxide and other gaseous pollutants. The recycling efficiency of HSCPs will also be tested, since being able to recycle the sorbent for reuse would be economically and environmentally friendly.

Dana Wensberg
Trinity College
“Liquid-Fueled Rocket Injector Design for Additive Manufacturing”
This research seeks to develop a fuel injection plate for a liquid bipropellant rocket using additive manufacturing (3D printing). This project will utilize Arcan’s Q20+ machine. The injector must fit to an existing nozzle and set of performance requirements. This research will demonstrate the application of additive technology in high performance rocketry, enhancing NASA’s ability to create more effective components.

Project Grant

Gukyoung An
University of Bridgeport
“CanSat Competition: The Knight Gliders”

Seth Hanson
Central Connecticut State University
“The Implementation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for the Detection of Radioactivity”

Tyron Hill
Central Connecticut State University
“Multirotor With Multi-Directional Robotic Arm”

Student Travel

Jalal-ud-din Butt
Central Connecticut State University

Jacob Fanthorpe
Wesleyan University

Melissa Luna
Wesleyan University

Undergraduate Scholarship

Ervin Lara
University of Bridgeport

Hetal Patel
University of Connecticut

Kyle Vaccaro
University of Hartford

Kim-Vui Duong
Central Connecticut State University

Ian Waters
Central Connecticut State University

Community College Scholarship

Donna Crane
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Lydia Gjuraj
Norwalk Community College

Michael Koutoumbas
Norwalk Community College

Tahje McClain
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Hector Navarro
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Roger Pappineau
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Donato Piroscafo
Gateway Community College

John Rivera
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Matthew Stromberg
Norwalk Community College

Community College Transfer Scholarship

Giuliano Stabile
University of Connecticut

Summer Internship

Cassidy Atkinson
University of Connecticut

Thomas D’Auria
University of Connecticut

Stephen DeRosa
University of Hartford

Justin Longton
Three Rivers Community College

Jacob Mikullitz
University of Connecticut

Thienly Nguyen
University of Hartford

Levi Reynolds
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Fall 2016 Student Award Recipients

Community College Scholarship

Josiel Batista
Naugatuck Valley Community College

 Elaina Becher
Quinebaug Valley Community College

Lydia Gjuraj
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Lindsey Japa
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Jody Jarvella
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Donato Piroscafo
Gateway Community College

Levi Reynolds
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Andre Roscoe
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Lanaya Shuler
Naugatuck Valley Community College

William Perry Weingart
Northwestern Connecticut Community College

Community College Transfer Scholarship

Andrew St. Amand
Central Connecticut State University

Emina Hodzic
University of Hartford 

Sarah Kurtz
Fairfield University

Graduate Research Fellowship

Tian McCann
University of Connecticut
“3D Printed Hydrogels for Skeletal Muscle Differentiation for Human iPS Cells”
The effect of 3D printed hydrogels with varying matrix stiffness on the differentiation of human iPS cells towards skeletal muscle will be investigated and an in vitro skeletal muscle culture model will be developed.

Manal Tahhan
University of Connecticut
“Computational Design Method for Skin-Frame Habitats”
A computational method to design lunar habitats made of bars covered by a skin is proposed. The goals for this project are to render feasible designs, implement a length constraint on the bars for packing purposes, and minimize the weight of the structure while maximizing the habitable volume.

Project Grant

Lauren Atkinson
Eastern Connecticut State University
“Evaluating the Scorpion Microbiome for Diversity and Antibiotic Production”

Kevin Bartlett
Central Connecticut State University
“Hybrid Propellant Rocket Engine”

Joseph Dworkin
Trinity College
“A Biomedical Exoskeletal Arm”

Christopher Gutierrez
Fairfield University
“Micro Bioreactor Array for Tissue Engineering Applications”

Evan Haas
Yale University
“Experimental Hybrid Fuel Rocket Engine”

Julia McManus
Fairfield University
“Wear-Free Power Transfer”

Jack Roth
Yale University
“Investigating the Tardigrade and E. Coli via High Altitude Balloon”

David Rutledge
Central Connecticut State University
“Hybrid Propellant Rocket Engine”

Michael Van der Linden
Yale University
“YUAA Cosmic Ray Cubesat”

Student Travel

Lauren Atkinson
Eastern Connecticut State University

Jalal-ud-din Butt
Central Connecticut State University

Kimberly Colavito
University of Hartford

Kevin Connolly
Eastern Connecticut State University

Nina Kosciuszek
Fairfield University

Jeffrey Panko
University of New Haven

Avi Stein
Wesleyan University

Christina Welch
Eastern Connecticut State University

Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Alec Andrulat
University of New Haven
“Developing a Serious Game to Enhance Experiental Education at University of New Haven: Gamifying of the Supply Chain Management Course”
This project aims to integrate gamification concepts into EGRM 6641 Supply Chain Management, a Master’s level course in the Industrial and Systems Engineering program at the University of New Haven.

Hannah Fritze
Wesleyan University
“Searching for Intermediate Mass Black Holes in Ultraluminous X-Ray Binaries”
Star formation information will be gathered for a number of ultraluminous X-ray sources using multi-wavelength spectral and temporal analysis of observations taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The outcome of this project will allow better understanding of the evolution and nature of stellar-mass black holes.

Anna Mercaldi
University of New Haven
“Anti-Bacterial Surfaces for Preventing ‘Sick’ Spacecrafts: Optimizing NO Releasing Polymer Composition for Increased Stability Under Room Temperature Conditions”
The goal of this project is to determine stability effects from first conjugating NO to additives before incorporating the formed complexes, at different percentages into PDMS.

Sophia Sanchez-Maes
Yale University
“Probing the Wavelength Dependence of Stellar Activity Driven Doppler Noise”
By formulating a physical model of spot/faculae related activity, and testing its fit with large and precise dataset similar observations for an activity-quiet star, wavelength-dependence will be investigated.

Dennis Scheglov
University of Connecticut
“Using a Cylindrical Coordinate System to Facilitate Multi-Material 3D Printing”
A proposed device will be able to incorporate multiple materials into a print simultaneously, or print in fewer materials at drastically increased speeds. Based on a cylindrical coordinate system, this method will incorporate the benefits of composite material structures and their properties into its prints.

Undergraduate Scholarship

Dylan Bernard
Central Connecticut State University 

Jalal-ud-din Butt
Central Connecticut State University

Daniel Cataldo
University of Connecticut

Kevin Connolly
Eastern Connecticut State University 

Meagan Ferreira
University of Connecticut

Rami Hamati
Wesleyan University

Ravina Hingorani
Fairfield University 

Christopher Hollaway
Central Connecticut State University

 Alicia Lynn
Central Connecticut State University

David Machado
Wesleyan University

Anthony Mastromarino
University of Hartford

Samuel Nguyen
Fairfield University

Tristan Peirce
Trinity College

Kailey Pisko
Eastern Connecticut State University

Austin Thomas
University of New Haven

Christina Welch
Eastern Connecticut State University

Michael Wright
Fairfield University

Summer 2016 Student Award Recipients

Helicopter Workshop

Connie Freelove
Housatonic Community College

Rami Hamati
Wesleyan University

Nicholas Saint
Housatonic Community College

Gregory Smith
University of Hartford

William Perry Weingart
Northwestern Connecticut Community College

Industrial/Technical Internship

Jason Alvarez
Naugatuck Valley Community College
Tier One

Wesaam Lepak
University of Hartford
Longman Lindsey

Anthony Mastromarino
University of New Haven
United Technologies Aerospace Systems

Daniel Pappalardo
University of Hartford
United Technologies Research Center

Education Internships

Amy Christensen
University of Connecticut
Connecticut Invention Convention

Bailey Muchin
University of Connecticut
Connecticut Invention Convention

NASA Academy

Jack Stallman
Trinity College

Garrett Taylor
University of Connecticut

Spring 2016 Award Recipients

Community College Quadcopter Challenge

Eric Abell, John Gray, Melanie McFadden, Amy Skrypczak
Quinebaug Valley Community College
QQ (Quinebaug Quadcopter)

John Beane, Joseph Dolan, Maari Lang, Khoa Nguyen, Bibi Rahamatullah
Naugatuck Valley Community College
NV Fly High

Blake Bennett, Brandon D’Agostino, Nichole Dineson, Nicholas Saint, Christopher Torok
Housatonic Community College
Housatonic Flyers

Daniel Fetzner, Lillian Orelup, Pedro Pinales, William Weingart
Northwestern Connecticut Community College
Quad Squad – Team B

Kristen Mallery, Jesse Marek, Michael Pavlik Jeffery Wright
Northwester Connecticut Community College
Quad Squad – Team A

Community College Scholarship

Jason Alvarez
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Ricardo Figueroa, Jr.
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Geoff Rose
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Graduate Research Fellowship

Shaun Mahmood
Wesleyan University
“Characterization of Hydrous Melt Inclusions in Lunar Return Samples”
Water content in the lunar crust and mantle is becoming increasingly important for understanding the early formation processes.  For this study, maps of melt clusions within lunar sample 75055, 50, 75055, 123b (ilmenite basalts) and additional Apollo samples will be created to detect H2O and OH content within these features in preparation for further quantitative analysis.  For this study, SEM imagery and EMPA geochemical maps will be utilized to determine mineralogy of the host grains of these inclusions. Examination of the resulting geochemical data will allow better understanding of the early lunar surface and mantle.

Shawn McGinley
University of New Haven
“A New Method for Early Cancer Diagnosis (Liquid Biopsy)”
The goal of this research will be to test a novel biosensor for the quick and effective diagnosis of cancer cells utilizing the principle of nucleic acid hybridization.  Cancer cells release small RNA containing vesicles that have previously found to be useful in determining whether a patient has cancer through the detection of mutations.  This technology could be very influential in NASA’s future strategic goals due to radiation levels astronauts are periodically exposed to while on missions to space.  This novel biosensor will be extremely useful in the monitoring of astronaut health before, during, and after missions.

Benjamin McKeeby
Wesleyan University
“An Analysis of Hydrothermal Sulfate Formation in St. Lucia Using the Mars 2020 Instrument Suite”
This study will attempt to distinguish between abiotic and biologically mediated sulfate minerals of a Mars Analogue using a combination of Raman spectroscopy techniques in conjunction with SEM and XRD analysis.  Additionally the presence of biosignatures in the form of organic molecules within sulfate minerology will be investigated.  Combining this data with SEM images of the regions will allow for mapping of the distribution of organics throughout the sampled regions.

Lorenzo Sewanan
Yale University
“Dissecting Multiscale Impact of Microgravity Induced Changes on Cardiac Physiology and Function Using Molecularly Detailed Myofilament Model”
This project proposes to examine the effect of preload alterations on the myocardium by extending out molecularly detailed model of myofilament activation to include a thermodynamically consistent model of myosin kinetics, to validate the completed model using high-fidelity data from the literature, and to carry out extensive multiscale simulations to understand how microgravity induced changes in preload may impact fundamental design of efficient experiments and even potentially inform preventative and counter measures to control adverse effects on the heart.

Student Project Grant

Sheila Berna
University of Bridgeport
“CanSat Competition (Team: GliderTron 3000)”

Jessica Durkin
Eastern Connecticut State University
“The Effect of Microgravity on Neuron Viability and Communication”

Student Travel Grant

Sheila Berna
University of Bridgeport
CanSat Competition in Burkett, TX

Katherine Burgos
Eastern Connecticut State University
Society of Developmental Biology

Phillip Carroll
University of Bridgeport
Travel to Palestine, TX

Joshua Hauge
University of Bridgeport
Travel to Fort Sumner, NM for HASP

Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Katherine Burgos
Eastern Connecticut State University
“The Effect of Simulated Microgravity on the Functions of Olfactory Neurons in the Nematode, C. Elegans”
The purpose of this project is to better understand how microgravity affects the nervous system of a living organism. Understanding whether microgravity affects the organism, C. elegans, can potentially help to uncover the specific ways that the function of human neurons are impaired during spaceflight. Moreover, in the long term, it can also contribute to the development of strategies that can reduce the disturbances caused by microgravity and potentially prevent them from affecting humans during spaceflight.

Cerys Holstege
Yale University
“Characterization of Novel Radiation Resistant Microorganisms”
Two recently isolated and previously uncharacterized highly UV-C resistant microorganisms, Hymenobacter sp. and Geodermatophilus sp., were studied in a lab at NASA Ames Research Center.  Exposure experiments were followed by RAPD analysis, a PCR reaction that allows the visualization of DNA breaks and their repair over time, and thymine dimer detection with immunoblotting, which allowed the quantification of the number of thymine dimers in exposed DNA. 

Nina Kosciuszek
Fairfield University
“Incorporating Aerogels Into Electrochemical Glucose Biosensors”
Procedures were developed to synthesize glucose oxidase encapsulated aerogels to use in glucose sensing electrochemical biosensors in order to systematically determine if the aerogel’s high porosity and surface area would enhance the performance of these sensors. The team hoped this research would increase understanding of how porosity and surface area affects glucose biosensing with the long-term goal of improving biosensors for other clinically or environmentally relevant targets including any relevant to human activity in space.

Hanna Morales
Wesleyan University
“Syntheses of Flourinated Trehalose to Test Their Impact on Protein Stability”
The goal of this research is to determine the effect that fluorination will have on the osmolyte properties exhibited by trehalose, since fluorination of sugars has previously shown to enhance protein-carbohydrate affinity (N’Go, 2014, Chemistry). Two difluorinated derivatives, 6,6’-dideoxy-6,6’-difluorotrehalose and 4,4’-dideoxy-4,4’-difluorotrehalose, are the focus of this research, paying careful attention to the mechanism by which they interact with water, how the fluorine atoms affect this interaction, and how a protein’s structure and behavior change as a result of the fluorinated compound’s presence.

Undergraduate Scholarship

Courtney Driscoll
Trinity College

Kim-Vui Duong
Central Connecticut State University

Alicia Lynn
Central Connecticut State University

Samuel Nguyen
Fairfield University

John O’Neill
Fairfield University

Tristan Peirce
Trinity College

Fall 2015 Award Recipients

Community College Scholarship

Itania Lamarre
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Jonathan Stanford
Naugatuck Valley Community College

Graduate Research Fellowship

Alan Shen
University of Connecticut
“Additive Manufacturing of Flexible Sensors”
The ink rheology and particle size that best suits micro-dispensing direct write applications were tested using a novel design for displacement sensing technology, optimized ink formulation analysis, and a new angle for additive manufacturing process control: line-to-line spacing. The process strives for accurate printed resistance accuracy and involves in-situ aligning conducting and insulating inks to generate the circuit. Also conducted were electrical tests to compare the resistance between commercial resistor devices and micro-dispensing printed resistor devices.

Student Project Grant

Andrew Arkebauer
Yale University
“High Performance UAV”

Brian Beitler
Yale University
“Sky Metagenomics Rocket Project”

Jalal-ud-din Butt
Central Connecticut State University
“CCSU NASA Rover Challenge Team”

Leonard Cannon
Central Connecticut State University
“Space Frame Optimization for Rapid Prototyping”

Sandra Diaz
Central Connecticut State University
“Solar Powered RC Plane”

Noel Laflamme
Fairfield University
“Table-Top Micro Patterning Device”

Betsy Li
Yale University
“Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association CubeSat”

Dominic Miceli
Central Connecticut State University
“CCSU NASA Rover Challenge Team”

Scott Smith
Yale University
“Automated Optical Telescope for Astrophotography and Outreach”

Kelly Woods
Southern Connecticut State University
“Carbon Nanotube Synthesis From Block Copolymer Deposited Catalyst”

Ian Wooley
Yale University
“Yale Undergraduate Rover Association (YURA)”

Student Travel Grant

Melissa Lowe
Wesleyan University
47th Lunar & Planetary Science Conference

Dominic Miceli
Central Connecticut State University
NASA Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

Jesse Tarnas
Wesleyan University
American Geophysical Union and American Astronomical Society Meetings

Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Rachel Aronow
Wesleyan University
“Planet Formation and Stellar Characteristics in Tatooine-Like Systems”
KH 15D consists of two young stars in orbit about their common center of mass, enclosed by a disk of gas and dust that undergoes precession. This project had two main branches of study, the first of which was continuing to study the system in optical and near-infrared light. The second goal of the project was to try and detect KH 15D using the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA), a radio interferometer located in Chile.

Caitlin Hansen
Southern Connecticut State University
“Determination of Nanoparticle Size Distributions to Investigate Sameness”
This project aimed to create a method to automate or semi-automate the size measurements of nanoparticles in images taken with a Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM).  The overall purpose of this study was to use image processing methods to reduce the error associated with manually measuring particle sizes.

Fiona O’Donnell
University of Connecticut
“Analysis of Lunar Habitats”
This research project analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of current proposed design concepts of lunar habitats in terms of structural safety, and feasibility of transport and construction. The first phase of this research project was to identify the constraints on the design of lunar habitats as well as currently proposed designs for lunar habitats. A review of the scientific literature on lunar habitats including design constraints, feasible materials, and proposed structures has been performed to evaluate existing lunar structural designs and to identify a design that will best meet these requirements.

Tristan Peirce
Trinity College
“Analyzing the Dynamics of Highly Turbulent, Interacting, Bluff Body Flames”
The key focus of this work will be an investigation of the turbulent flow field in which interacting turbulent flames reside. Detailed comparisons between the single and multiple bluff-body flow fields to analyze the flow field modifications that the adjacent flows introduce will be performed. Understanding flame interaction will have important consequences towards NASA’s mission to develop next-generation high performance engines.

Jeffrey Panko
University of New Haven
“High Velocity Atmospheric Deceleration Devices: CFD Simulations of Parachutes and Ballutes”
This research intends to model deceleration devices, specifically, parachutes and ballutes, in order to provide data into the optimal design and flight characteristics which exceed the performance of current devices.  Through utilization of modern Computational Fluid Dynamics software, research will be conducted towards determining the effects of ballute features, such as seams, ram air inlets, and varying body shapes, on global and local flow around rigid geometries to provide design insights as to which produce optimal coefficients of drag. Said research will aid in the production of systems that allow the exploration, development, and research of space alongside relevant technologies.

Dana Wensberg
Trinity College
“Real Time Cardiovascular Monitor Employing a Digital Stethoscope”
The goal of this research was to create a reliable and comprehensive heart monitor that operated via wireless communication between a main console (responsible for processing) and the device capturing and sending heart sound data – acting as a real time cardiovascular monitor employing a digital stethoscope.

Undergraduate Scholarship

Benjamin Bartolome
Yale University

Phillip Carroll
University of Bridgeport

Daniel Cataldo
University of Connecticut

Aylin Garcia-Soto
Wesleyan University

Joshua Hauge
University of Bridgeport

Jessica Johnson
Central Connecticut State University

Paul Klaucke
Southern Connecticut State University

Anthony Mastromarino
University of New Haven

Jacob Mevorach
Trinity College

Daniel Pappalardo
University of Hartford

Garrett Sullivan
Southern Connecticut State University

Luis Mauricio Uyaguari
Trinity College