NASA Fellowship Activity has awarded fellowships through NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) and Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) to 12 graduate students totaling $1.9 million to conduct research and contribute directly to NASA’s work and mission.

NASA Fellowship Activities align with the Office of STEM Engagement’s goal to establish a well-trained science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce. Fostering highly skilled scientists and engineers is critical to NASA’s future and to building a strong American economy. These fellowships also enable the agency to create unique opportunities for students to be a part of NASA’s endeavors in exploration and discovery.

“These fellowships link students to paths where they can gain valuable hands-on work experience and the opportunity to collaborate with NASA,” said Mike Kincaid, associate administrator for the Office of STEM Engagement.The agency benefits from their fresh perspectives and innovative ideas which help enable our exploration goals.”

NASA is awarding training grants to seven graduate students funded by MUREP and five graduate students funded by the projects within the ARMD. These grants are awarded for a period of performance of three years.

The following universities have students who are receiving the MUREP fellowships:

University of California Merced: Molecular Scale Engineering of Electrochemical Biosensors for Detection of Cardiac Biomarkers: Health monitoring is integral for all space missions. The aim of this research is to focus on the stresses of space travel on the human body and how it can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Key biomarkers can help identify health concerns and use nanoengineered, portable electrochemical sensors to selectively detect biomarkers in blood without the need for complex processing. The goal is to improve performance of these biosensors.

San Diego State University: Investigation of Low Energy Impact on Sandwich Panels and its Effects on Compression Load Response: Space vehicles use sandwich components, structural components made of three layers for a combination of high structural rigidity and low weight, for adapters and payload fairings, but they are prone to damage due to impacts. Research on models used to predict damage on sandwich composites and their residual strength and life of a component is critical to assure mission success. The goal is to understand the options and knowledge of accuracy, and efficiency of different models that will be used to propose efficient multi-fidelity modeling approaches.

Florida International University, Miami, Florida: Frequency Independent Ultra-Wideband Millimeter-Wave Beamformer. Communication links have traditionally been focused on narrowband, single-user and single-beam interfaces. This research focuses on small ultra-wideband (UWB) apertures and will introduce new concepts to develop frequency independent and low power RF front ends scalable to millimeter wave frequencies.

New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico: Exploring Mechanisms for Change in Jupiter’s Atmospheric Structure During the Juno Era: NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter reveals properties of the Jovian deep atmosphere with unprecedented detail through observations made with the Juno InfraRed Auroral Mapper and the MicroWave Radiometer. The research aims to derive properties of Jupiter’s uppermost cloud deck using high spectral resolution optical images obtained with a ground-based telescope during Juno’s perijove passes. This will lead to obtaining the vertical profiles of Jupiter’s uppermost cloud deck, analyzing temporal changes in its structure and identifying mechanisms in the deeper atmosphere responsible for observed variability. The overall objective is to add value to the Juno mission and is aligned with the giant planet system exploration goals described in NASA’s 2013 Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

University of Texas, El Paso, Texas: Developing a More Accurate Size and Composition Estimation of Orbital Debris from Hyperspectral Unmixing: This research will study orbital debris  and develop an accurate detection and size/composition estimation of orbital debris to reduce the risks to the International Space Station.

Florida International University, Miami, Florida: Synthesis and Characterization of Metal Matrix Composites of Boron Nitride Nanotubes and Lightweight Aerospace Grade Alloys for Use in Extreme Environments: Boron nitride nanotube (BNNT) synthesis has resulted in nanotubes with increased aspect ratio, greater length, higher purity and greater scalability in production. This research will determine an effective roadmap to the incorporation of BNNTs into aerospace quality lightweight metal alloys that will outperform current technology. The goal will be to find the effect of composite strengthening on aerospace grade alloys.

University of Houston: Simulating the Effects of Hydroclimate Stress on BVOC-Chemistry-Climate Interactions in GISS Model E: Hydroclimatic extremes such as droughts cause substantial perturbations to the terrestrial biosphere. It can lead to feedback loops in the climate system; for which our understanding is highly uncertain. The research will study drought stress terms and their importance in capturing extreme hydroclimatic event effects on atmospheric composition and climate through the BVOC (Biogenic Volatile Organic Compounds) emissions chemistry-climate interactions. The goal is to better understand the stress BVOCs create on atmospheric composition and the feedback effects of hydroclimate extremes in present and future climates.

The following universities have students who are receiving the ARMD project funded fellowships:

Utah State University, Logan, Utah: Continuous Flight Optimization of Morphing-Wing Aircraft: Research on aerostructural relationships wil predict the effects of wing morphing on fuel consumption, and aims to examine how it facilitates developing geometry that predicts how much drag is reduced by fixed versus morphing wing aircraft configurations during a flight. The goal is to develop a new suite of aerodynamic tools and analytical relationships that provide insight into the effects of wing morphing on aircraft efficiency.

Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia: Formulation of Yttria-Stabilized Zirconia Aerogels for High Temperature Applications: Research on new materials and formation process for aerogels, which have low thermal conductivity and density and are used as thermal barriers. The goal is to yield aerogels that can withstand exposure to extremely high temperatures for longer periods of time.

Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio: Additive Manufacturing of Oxide Dispersion Strengthened Ni-Based Superalloys for Future Launch Vehicles: Research on new materials for additive manufacturing that aims to be used in very high temperature applications. Results could contribute to transforming the design and manufacturing of hot sections of vehicles that face rising demands for higher operating temperatures and, to enabling more robust thrust systems.

Clarkson University, Potsdam, New York: High-Order Accurate Shock Fitting Using a Discontinuous Galerkin Method: Research into methods that are more efficient (faster) and more accurate at high orders of magnitude for simulating hypersonic flows with shocks such as those experienced by a vehicle during reentry. The goal is to make the simulations more reliable and allow orders of magnitude improvements in accuracy while using the same level of computational resources.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Combustion Modeling Based on High-fidelity Data and Reduced-order Description for Scramjet Applications:

Research into a new integrated computational model that uses different techniques and introduces machine learning to improve the speed of modeling events associated with high-speed scramjet engines. The goal is to change th
e scope of computational modeling by providing a tool that rapidly leverages legacy data to advance predictive accuracy while providing a framework to integrate new experimental data as it becomes available.

Some of the chosen research proposals aim to develop new technology that will support future human exploration missions, such as lightweight aerospace materials that would withstand extreme environments to improve existing technology for future launch vehicles.

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