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Undergraduate Research Award Recipients

The Undergraduate Research Awards Program provides awards to qualified students from WSGC Affiliate Member colleges and universities to create and implement a small research study of their own design as academic year, summer, or part-time employment that is directly related to their interests and career objectives in space science, aerospace, or space-related studies.

A faculty or research staff member on student’s campus will act as an advisor for the research study, which is conceptualized and designed by the student. WSGC will locate a scientist or engineer from one of the research-intensive universities to act as a second mentor for successful applicants. WSGC is pleased to announce and congratulate the following students on their WSGC Undergraduate Research Awards:

2017-2018


Jens Carter
University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley
Major: Chemical Engineering
Research area/title: Cosmic Radiation Telescope
Synopsis: The goals of the Cosmic Radiation Telescope are to successfully design and build an inexpensive particle detector that is set up to examine portions of the night sky for extended periods of time. The project is an extension of work done at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and the University of California Berkeley.

John Compas
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Major: Computer Engineering and Computer Science
Research area/title: Spherical Gyroscope for Spacecraft Attitude Control
Synopsis: I will be working towards a demonstration of a different technique to control the direction that a satellite points in space. My project will begin to investigate an alternative that could solve these issues without large increases in price and complexity.

Kaisa Crawford-Taylor
University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse
Major: Mathematics and Computational Physics
Research area/title: Investigating Optimizing Mirror Orbits for Darkside Illumination
Synopsis: I will simulate motions of large, lightweight mirrors orbiting Earth-like exoplanets around a variety of stars, seeking fuel-efficient orbits in situations when radiation pressure is important.

Alexander Garces
Marquette University
Major: Physics
Research area/title: Compromising Metabolic Potential in Yeast Infections
Synopsis: Furthering the understanding of the effects of magnolia bark extract on yeast using electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy. With the goal of accelerating the development of treatment for yeast infections in humans, including astronauts on long missions, using non-toxic magnolia bark extract.

Harold Hart
University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse
Major: Physics
Research area/title: Contrast Study of Segmented Microtubule Flaws and Mechanics
Synopsis: Microtubules are a filament in the cell that make up the majority of its framework. For them to function they need to be able to change their flexibility but we do not know how it changes in all possible cases. In this project, how defects in the microtubule structure change the flexibility will be studied by making artificial defects between two microtubules stuck together.

Jarret Henning
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
Research area/title: A molecular investigation into the genetic networks that respond to the mechanical characteristics of the microgravity environment experienced by Arabidopsis thaliana during spaceflight.
Synopsis: The purpose of this project is to determine the overall function of a gene known as CP1 and how it relates to stress response in plants such as Arabidopsis thaliana, also known as Thale cress.

Alecio Madrid
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Major: Astrophysics
Research area/title: Using Velocity Anisotropy to Analyze Magnetohydrodynamic Turbulence in Giant Molecular Clouds
Synopsis: We advance our research from last year by developing and implementing a robust statistical framework for studying magnetic fields in Giant Molecular Clouds.

Sarah Matejka
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
Research area/title: Mutated Potassium Transporter Gene Transformed in Exotic Plants
Synopsis: My project is based upon the goal of allowing plants in space. I am interested in mutating target genes in our model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, specifically a potassium transporter gene called SKOR. I hope to be able to mutate SKOR in a way that after transformation in exotic plants, such as lettuce, plants can thrive in microgravity. I will also be designing a novel plasmid using CRISPR-Cas9 that contains this mutation so that I am able to transform a variety of other plants as well.

Avery McLain
University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse
Major: Physics
Research area/title: Photocatalytic Properties of Zinc Oxide/Graphene Nanocomposites
Synopsis: Zinc oxide (ZnO) is a semiconductor that has the potential to be a great catalyst in chemical reactions involving light, but it is limited by the rate at which its electrons move between the conduction band and the valence band in its orbitals. The fast rate at which this happens can disrupt the ongoing reaction. By combining ZnO with graphene, a carbon-based material, it is hoped that the rate at which the electrons return to the valance band during the reaction will be slowed down. This is because graphene has a special structure that allows for the separation of charges in the photocatalytic reaction process. If a combination of ZnO and graphene could retain the valuable optical, electrical, and mechanical properties of the zinc oxide and the graphene, while also improving on the photocatalytic abilities of ZnO, then it would have many applications as a transparent conductive material in technologies such as solar panels or biomedical sensors.

Jessica Thayer
Marquette University
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Research area/title: Improvement of a Forward Dynamic Predictive Human Gait Model
Synopsis: This project aims to improve a dynamic, predictive model of human gait. The model to be improved is novel in that it uses predictive control to replicate the complex control of the Central Nervous System (CNS). The model consists of a forward dynamic human gait model as the plant, and a control system that is primarily Model Predictive Control (MPC) to simulate the CNS. By incorporating each to the model alone, it is expected that understanding can be gained about which optimization is of higher priority to the CNS. This information can be used to complete the second goal of the research, which aims to incorporate a combination of the optimization of dynamic effort and metabolic energy consumption into the existing model. Lastly, this research aims to explore the dynamic effect of a space suit on gait.

Alessandro Tocci
Carthage College
Major: Physics
Research area/title: The Study of Sprites
Synopsis: The purpose of my studies will focus on trying to explain how lightning can cause upper atmospheric discharges known as lightning sprites. I aim to understand the obscure nature of sprites and possibly contribute a small amount of knowledge to this area of research for future generations to expand upon.

Shelia Franklin
Carthage College
Major: Physics
Research area/title: Micro-Propellant Gauging

Megan Janiak
Carthage College
Major: Physics
Research area/title: Micro-Propellant Gauging

Taylor Peterson
Carthage College
Major: Physics
Research area/title: Micro-Propellant Gauging

 

2016-2017


Adam Biewer
Carthage College
Major: Physics
Research Title/Area: An observation of EM VLF waves emitted by lightning
Synopsis: I will be studying electromagnetic waves emitted by lightning strikes and how these waves interact with the atmosphere. The data will be taken from a project conducted at Carthage College.

Logan Hess
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Major: Physics
Research Title/Area: A Fourier Photometric Analysis of the Spiral Arms of Late-Type Spiral Galaxies
Synopsis: We explore the properties of the spiral arms of spiral galaxies as a function of environmental density. Two samples of spiral galaxies of morphological classification Sb/Sbc/Sbc will be considered.

Karsten Hintz
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Major: Physics and Math
Research Title/Area: Evaluating Information Content in SDSS Quasar Spectra as a Function of Signal-to-Noise
Synopsis: The goal is to test the hypothesis that measurements such as width and internal shifts of broad emission lines in the spectra of quasars are sensitive to changes in the signal to noise ratio and to evaluate the consequences of these changes.

Benjamin  Hoscheit
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Major: Astronomy-Physics and Mathematics
Research Title/Area: Exploring the Effects of Foreground Removal Techniques and Instrumental Systematics on Observations of the 21 cm Neutral Hydrogen Signal
Synopsis: We aim to explore the effects of foreground removal techniques and instrumental systematics associated with intensity mapping observations of the 21 cm neutral hydrogen signal. Our results may be used by future 21 cm space missions.

Ryan LeFebre
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Major: Astronomy-Physics, Physics, and Applied Mathematics.
Research Title/Area: Kinetic Inductance Detectors for Future Space Missions to Observe the Cosmic Microwave Background
Synopsis: The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is relic radiation from the big bang. Much can be learned about the early universe from studying the CMB’s polarization. The goal of this project is to design and simulate detector arrays utilizing kinetic inductance technology for space based observations of the CMB polarization.

Alecio Madrid
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Major: Applied Mathematics, Astronomy, Chemistry, Computer Science, and
Physics
Research Title/Area: Using Velocity Anisotropy to Analyze Magnetohydrodynamic Turbulence in Giant Molecular Clouds
Synopsis: We will use velocity anisotropy to analyze turbulence within 10 giant molecular clouds in the Milky Way Galaxy. Specifically, our goal is to further verify the role of turbulence in the initial stages of star formation.

Matthew Monfeli
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Major: Biological Systems Engineering
Research Title/Area: Hydrogen Peroxide Flow System
Synopsis: My project is studying the oxidative shock that is experienced by plants that are grown in space. The device that I am designing will treat plants with dilute Hydrogen Peroxide to simulate this shock, and then study how it affects their growth over time.

Sarah Parker
University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point
Major: Physics
Research Title/Area: Isolated lenticular (S0) galaxies are a hot topic of research nowadays. I aim to learn more about these lenticular galaxies through exploring various photometric parameters to identify differences between galaxies in isolated and crowded (groups with 4-10 galaxy members) environments. Using a Fortran code (BUDDA – Bulge Disk Decomposition Analysis; http://www.sc.eso.org/~dgadotti/budda.html ), I will model and derive the parameters that describe the bulge, bar, and the disk of each lenticular galaxy (e.g., shape, light profile, etc.). Then, I will compare the given parameters along with colors and size to see if they are statistically different for the two samples. In doing this, I might be able to get some more insights into the formation and evolution of lenticular galaxies.

Jacob  Pfund
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Major: Physics
Research Title/Area: Exploring Properties of Zinc Oxide/Graphene Hybrid Structures
Synopsis: This project aims to find an optimal ratio of zinc oxide and graphene that combines the best properties of both materials without sacrificing their transparency or conductivity.

Nicholas Poole
Carthage College
Major: Physics and Mathematics
Research Title/Area: Data acquisition software development
Synopsis: This project is meant to develop free software that can be used on the xCORE startKIT microcontroller, produced by XMOS, for high-speed data acquisition in experiments at a relatively low cost.

Megan Janiak, Nathaniel Lee, Jackson Wehr
Carthage College
Research Title/Area: MicroGravity

 

2015-2016


Ariane Boissonnas
Carthage College
Major: Physics 
Research Title/Area: Mechanical design and implementation for Carthage RockSat-X
Synopsis: The goal of this project is to measure electromagnetic radiation produced by lightning in the atmosphere and lower inosphere by mounting a student-designed and built instrument on a sub-orbital rocket through participation in the RockSat-X program. The data collected will help better understand the process by which electromagnetic radiation from lightning is reflected and/or transmitted by the ionosphere.

Leah Fulmer
University of Wisconsin- Madison
Major: Astrophysics
Research Title/Area: Stellar Evolution of the Star Cluster NGC 602 and Massive Star Formation in the Low-Density Magellanic Bridge
Synopsis: By investigating the star formation history of the star cluster NGC 602 and its surroundings within the SMC, we hope to broaden our understanding of massive star formation in low-gas-density regions

Michael Hernandez
Carthage College
Major: Physics
Research Title/Area: RockSat
Synopsis: The objective of our mission is to observe very low frequency (VLF) electromagnetic waves such as sferics to infer ionospheric dynamics. Sferic is a broadband impulse generated by natural lightning discharges. Some energy excapes into magnetosphere. This energy may play a role in the removal of energetic particles from the radiation belts. We will recieve and sotre from electric and magnetic field signals.

Logan Hess
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Major: Physics 
Research Title/Area: Exploring “Nature versus Nurture” in a Fourier Photometric Analysis of Spiral Arms in Early-Type Spiral Galaxies
Synopsis: This project aims to compare the properties of spiral arms in isolated early-type spirals with those of identical type in denser environments. This may improve our understanding of galaxy evolution.

Maria Kalambokidis
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Major: Biology
Research Title/Area: Examining Habitability of Kepler Exoplanets
Synopsis: I will examine the habitability of the Kepler exoplanets by using the mineral physics toolkit BurnMan and the observed properties from the Kepler spacecraft. In particular, I will focus on the presence of plate tectonics, liquid surface water, and a magnetic field.

Sarah Martens
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Major: Astrophysics
Research Title/Area: Optical Spectroscopy in the CHILES Field
Synopsis: We aim to to analyze optical spectroscopy for possible companions to the galaxy JI00054.8, the largest redshift neural hydrogen detection to date, in order to describe the nature of the HI detection and the potential influence of the large dark matter halo on the possible group of galaxies.

Breonna McMahon
Carthage College
Major: Physics
Research Title/Area: RockSat-X
Synopsis: The goal of this project is to measure electromagnetic radiation produced by lightning in the atmosphere and lower ionosphere by mounting a student-designed and -built instrument on a sub-orbital rocket through participation in the RockSat-X Program.

Sarah Parker
University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point
Major: Physics
Research Title/Area: Elliptical Galaxies in Different Environments-Isolated versus Group Environment
Synopsis: Through this project, I aim to learn more about elliptical galaxies through exploring
various photometric parameters to identify differences between galaxies in isolated and crowded
environments. Using a code, I will model and derive the parameters that describe the bulge of each elliptical
galaxy. Then, I will compare the given parameters along with colors and size to see if they are statistically
different for the two samples. In doing this, I will get more insight into the formation and evolution of elliptical
galaxies.

Kevin Slezak
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Major: Physics 
Research Title/Area: y-Radiation “Aging” of Titanium Dioxide
Synopsis: How titanium dioxide (TiO2) thin films are interactively affected when exposed to y-radiation. The thin films are used as transparent conducting oxides (TCO) layers in emerging solar cell technology.

Melanie Sorman
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Major: Geology
Research Title/Area: Oceanic Anoxic Events (OAE) as Repeated Causes of Mass Extinctions
Synopsis: OAE are time periods when oxygen levels of ancient oceans dropped to levels that were lethal to marine organisms. Using two instruments, the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer and Magnetic Susceptibility, I was able to document oxygen/sea depth level trends throughout. With these trends, I am now searching for correlations with faunal diversity. With this data, a simple model of regional oxygen depletion associated with sea level change can be built.

Rebecca Taylor
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Major: Physics
Research Title/Area: Finding New Galactic Interstellar Neutral Hydrogen Shells
Synopsis: Through visual search of high-resolution radio data, this project will increase the number and diversity of known interstellar hydrogen shells so we can better understand how these structures evolve.

2014-2015


Christopher Christopherson
University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh
Major: Education and Astronomy
Research Title/Area: Observing Nebulosities
Synopsis: The project is focused on observing several Galactic H II regions in three visual wavelengths to study the interaction between the young stars they harbor and the surrounding interstellar medium.

Brandon Melcher
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Major: Physics and Astrophysics
Research Title/Area: Black Hole Spaceships and Relativistic Space Flight Mechanics
Synopsis: This project will critically analyze the idea that small black holes can power spaceships. An examination of relativistic flight mechanics will also be done.

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