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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:



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

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.


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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