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Research Seed Grant Award Recipients

The Research Seed Grant Program provides awards to faculty and staff from WSGC Affiliate Member colleges and universities to support individuals interested in starting or enhancing space- or aerospace-related research program(s). The primary purpose of these awards is to help faculty build a research program through pilot studies, site visits or collaboration. The WSGC has served as an excellent forum to bring together investigators from different universities to initiate a research collaboration on topics of mutual interest. The success of this Seed Grant program is measured by the investigator’s success in developing or expanding their research program or forming a collaboration that leads to tangible research results.

The Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium is pleased to announce and congratulate the following recipients of the Research Seed Grant Awards.


Gargi Chaudhuri
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Research Title:
Detection of Aquatic Invasive Plants Using Deep Learning Based Semantic Segmentation Approach
Develop an image processing pipeline using UAV imagery and a deep learning based semantic segmentation approach and transfer learning to detect the presence and density of the Purple Loosestrife patches in selected study sites.

Rocio Duchesne
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Research Title:
Spectral Characterization and Classification of Urban Tree Species in Southern Wisconsin
This study will use field spectroscopy to characterize the spectral information of 15 urban tree species and will evaluate the suitability of this type of data and machine learning models to classify those tree species, at the leaf level.

Zezhen Fu
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
Research Title:
Tough Li-Garnet Ceramic Solid-State Electrolyte for Solid-State Batteries
We will process Li-garnet ceramic electrolytes with high fracture toughness aiming for solid-state batteries to overcome the safety and energy density issues in Li-ion batteries.

Lindsay McHenry
The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin on behalf of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Research Title: Extended, High-Temperature Cooling of Lave Tube Interiors: Analog for Venus
Synopsis: We will study the mineralogy and geochemistry of terrestrial basaltic lava tubes as an analog for Venus weathering processes.


Karen Andeen
Marquette University
Research Title:
A Marquette IceAct Telescope for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole
Under this proposal, we are building the final telescope to complete the first 7-telescope station of IceAct, an air Cherenkov telescope array envisioned as an upgrade to IceCube Neutrino Observatory.

Palash Banerjee
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Research Title: A Portable Single Photon Detector Based on a Software Defined Electronics Platform
Synopsis: The purpose of this project is to apply coincidence counting to muon detection using the Red Pitaya high speed digitizing board. The board is programmable and the signal processing is performed in software.

Vettrivel Gnaneswaran
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
Research Title: Quantification of Perceived and Exerted Forces in Precision Grasps with Gloves
Synopsis: Gloves affect tactile feedback that is critical to grasping objects. I will model perceived exertions for non-prehensile tasks with gloves, which may have ramifications on both task and glove design in manufacturing, aerospace, and healthcare industries.

Kelly Gorres
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Research Title: Preventing Reactivation of Epstein-Barr Virus in Astronauts
Synopsis: Stressful conditions in spaceflight cause the reactivation of dormant viruses in astronauts. Understanding how viruses reactivate is needed to prevent viral associated diseases during extended space missions.

Christina Othon
Ripon College
Research Title: Examining Hydration Mechanisms of Osmolytes for Food Stabilization
Synopsis: Sugars and polyols form an important class of food additives used widely in the food industry due to their safety and compatibility with biomolecules.  This work is a computational and experimental study of osmolyte biopreservation.

Mohammad Rahman
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Research Title: Coordination Control and Obstacle Avoidance for a Team of Mobile Robots in Dynamic Environment
Synopsis: Mobile robots operating in a team in an unknown environment will be instrumental in extending human reach in planetary exploration. In this research, we propose coordination control and obstacle avoidance for a team of mobile robots roaming in an unknown dynamic environment.

Lorena Rios Mendoza
University of Wisconsin-Superior
Research Title: Microplastics in the Space Station: Undergraduate Research Collaboration
Synopsis: Mobile robots operating in a team in an unknown environment will be instrumental in extending human reach in planetary exploration. In this research, we propose coordination control and obstacle avoidance for a team of mobile robots roaming in an unknown dynamic environment.

Relena Ribbons
Lawrence University
Research Title: Microbial communities and nutrient dynamics in hydroponic gardens
Synopsis: Exploring nutrient cycling and microbial community development in hydroponics systems and artificial growth media suitable for growing food in space.

Sujat Sen
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Research Title: Rapid Conversion of CO2 into Fuels using Nanofluids: A Strategy for In-situ resource utilization on deep space missions
Synopsis: We will develop well dispersed suspensions of nano-sized catalyst particles in liquid electrolytes to rapidly convert carbon dioxide into valuable fuels such as methane.

Brian Slaboch
Milwaukee School of Engineering
Research Title: Reconfigurable Space Mechanisms for Mission Critical Applications
Synopsis: This project will introduce reconfigurable space mechanisms as a promising approach to dramatically increase space mechanism performance.

Alder Yu
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Research Title: Effect of X-Ray and Neutron Radiation Exposure on Circadian Rhythms
Synopsis: This project investigates whether exposure to types of radiation encountered by astronauts during spaceflight can disrupt circadian rhythms.


Barry Cameron
University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee
Research Title: Glaciovolcanism on Mauna Loa Volcano, Hawaii: Implications for Habitable Worlds on Mars
Synopsis: We propose to characterize glaciovolcanic deposits on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to help identify similar processes on Mars and constrain putative paleoenvironments on Mars that may have once supported and preserved life.

Eric Gansen
University of Wisconsin- LaCrosse
Research Title: Mapping the Photoresponse of Quantum-Dot-Based Photon-Number-Resolving Detectors
Synopsis: I will map the photoresponse of a quantum-dot-based single-photon detector by capping its active area with a SIL and by using an optical scanning microscope to selectively probe its quantum dots.

Lindsay McHenry
University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee
Research Title: Reconciling orbital vs. in-situ mineralogy: Californian vs. Martian paleolakes
Synopsis: We will use satellite remote sensing data and drone-mounted spectroscopic data to assess the mineralogy of paleolake and lake beds in arid Southern California, and collect samples to “ground truth” these interpretations for comparison to Martian paleolakes.

Niti Mishra
University of Wisconsin- LaCrosse
Research Title: Fine-scale Characterization of Spring and Fall Phenology in North American Prairie using Unmanned Aerial System imagery
Synopsis: Acquire and analyze multi-date Unmanned Aerial System imagery of spring and fall season to characterize species/plant level vegetation phenological dynamics at a North American prairie site in Wisconsin

Mohammad Rahman
University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee
Research Title: Adaptive Coordinated Control of Multiple Mobile Manipulator Robots: An Analog of Multi-Robot Planetary Exploration
Synopsis: Adaptive control of mobile manipulator robots transporting a rigid object cooperatively under unknown parameters and disturbances is essential in extending human reach in planetary exploration.

Timothy Tharp
Marquette University
Research Title: Vacuum compatibility testing and outgassing measurements of 3-d printed materials
Synopsis: We are experimentally investigating the suitability of newly available 3-d printed materials for use in ultra-high vacuum systems and environments, such as physics experiments and satellite missions.


Deanna Donohoue
Lawrence University
Research Title: Undergraduate Research Collaboration to Study Air Quality and Climate Impacts of Methane Emissions in the Appalachia Shale Basin
Synopsis: Investigations into the air quality and climate change impacts of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry through a multi-institutional collaboration.

Steven Girard
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Research Title: Next-Generation Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators based on Low-Cost and Non-Toxic Nanostructured Silicides
Synopsis: We will develop low-cost, non-toxic nanostructured silicide materials for applications in Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG), which provide long-term electrical power to a variety of spacecraft.

Lindsay McHenry
University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee
Research Title: Paleolake Tecopa: An alkaline analog for early Mars
Synopsis: We will sample and mineralogically and geochemically analyze ancient and modern saline-alkaline lake deposits in SE California for comparison to ancient lake deposits on Mars.



Steven Girard
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Research Title: Nanostructured Silicides for Next-Generation Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators
Synopsis: Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) are a primary power source for electronic and mechanical equipment on spacecraft, satellites, and rovers. In this project, we will investigate the synthesis and scale-up of nanostructured silicide thermoelectric materials for use in high-efficiency next-generation RTGs that are comprised of low-cost, abundant, and non-toxic elements.

Marcia Bjornerud
Lawrence University
Research Title: Drilling into Possible Impact Crater in Door County, Wisconsin
Synopsis: By obtaining and analyzing subsurface samples from a geologically anomalous site in Door County, the project aims to understand the site’s characteristics and determine whether it is an impact crater.

Katherine Rabidoux
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
Research Title: Modeling the star formation histories of local luminous compact blue galaxies
Synopsis: When the universe was half of its current age, galaxies were often blue, compact, and actively forming stars. Such galaxies are rare now. To understand how they have evolved, I will model their properties and star formation histories

Taviare Hawkins
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Research Title: A Systematic Approach to Understanding Microtubule Mechanics
Synopsis: This project performs a comparison study of the three commonly used microtubule mechanics assays to develop a baseline measurement of rigidity. Gaining scientific insights into microtubules structure.

Seth King
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Research Title: Understanding γ-Radiation Aging of Polar and non-Polar Magnesium Oxide
Synopsis: We investigate how ionizing radiation alters magnesium oxide (MgO) properties to simulate the aging of non-terrestrial based photovoltaics. This will be the first insight into the aging characteristics of MgO based photovoltaics.

Paul Martino
Carthage College
Research Title: The Effects of elevated CO2 and Anxiety Vulnerability on Stress and Performance:  Potential Implication for Extended Space Travel
Synopsis: Behaviorally inhibited people are prone to anxiety disorders, placing space missions in jeopardy. We propose to elucidate physiological markers to screen such individuals for safer space flight.

Lindsay McHenry
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Research Title: Astrobiology at Lassen Volcanic National Park
Synopsis: We will investigate the mineralogy, geochemistry, and microbiology of different hydrothermal environments at Lassen Volcanic National Park as and analog to potentially habitable environments on Mars.

Daryl Sauer
University of Wisconsin-Parkside
Research Title: The Development of an Electrochemical Flow Reaction System for Extraterrestrial Organic Synthesis
Synopsis: The development of a small flow based electrochemical reaction platform capable of performing organic chemistry and drug-on-demand capabilities under zero gravity conditions with minimal energy consumption, chemicals, and waste.


Lisa Anderson-Antle
Carthage College
Research Title: Effects of Photobiomodulation in Osteoclast Formation in Vitro
Synopsis: The purpose of this project is to determine if the use of NIR-LED 670nm may attenuate or amplify osteoclast differentiation in the RAW264.7 cell line. Cells will be cultured for 24 hours then induced to differentiate, using the cytokine, RANKL. Groups will be divided by RANKL dose, and different energy densities, treated with light either once or on four consecutive days using the Spectra LifeTM LED. Tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) staining will be used for blinded manual cell counting using Fiji ImageJ. Using a Pearson correlation, mean osteoclast cell count will be compared to supernatant TRAP levels as a measure of inter-rater reliability.

Eric Compas        
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Research Title: Using unmanned aerial vehicles and a multispectral camera to map vegetation health and water quality in Wisconsin
Synopsis: This study will use a new multi-spectral camera designed specifically for unmanned aerial vehicles to better examine seasonal changes in vegetation health and water quality in southern Wisconsin.

Andrea Henle
Carthage College
Research Title: Isolation and Analysis of Bacteriophages Aboard the International Space Station
Synopsis: We will characterize bacteriophages present on the International Space Station. This project aligns with NASA’s goals of understanding biological processes in space and providing a safe human presence in space.

Lindsay McHenry
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Research Title: Hot water at Lassen: Analog for Early Mars
Synopsis: Student opportunity for Mars analog research on hydrothermal geochemistry and alteration at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Stephen Dornbos
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Research Title: Understanding the early evolution of multicellular life: A new exceptionally preserved burgess Shale-type biota form the Precambrian of western Mongolia
Synopsis: Preservation of soft-bodied organisms is exceedingly rare in the fossil record. One way that such fossils are preserved is as carbonaceous compressions in fine-grained marine sedimentary rocks. Such deposits of exceptional preservation are known as Burgess Shale-type (BST) deposits. We recently discovered a new Ediacaran BST deposit with exceptional preservation from the Zuun-Arts Formation in Zavkhan Province, western Mongolia. The fossils in this deposit currently consist of two new species of benthic multicellular algae. The goal of this project is to further excavate this fossil deposit and conduct geochemical analyses to characterize the nature and preservational pathways of these Precambrian carbonaceous compression fossils.



Matthew Kelley
Concordia University Wisconsin
Research Title: Undergraduate Research in Astronomy at Concordia University WI
Synopsis: Modeling of radio supernovae is an important step in understanding the stellar evolution of massive stars and provides a perfect opportunity for undergraduate participation in astrophysics.

Lindsay McHenry
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Research Title: Acidic vs. Neutral Hydrothermal Alteration at Lassen: Potential Mars Analog
Synopsis: We will investigate the alteration products of neutral and acidic hot springs and fumaroles at Lassen Volcanic National Park as a potential analog for deposits studied by Spirit at Gusev Crater, Mars.

Jalal Nawash
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Research Title: Efficiency of Select Solar Cells at High Altitudes Using a Weather Balloon
Synopsis: This project will investigate select solar cells¿ efficiencies at high altitude by using a weather balloon. This project contributes to NASA¿s green aviation goals and leverage existing resources.

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