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Students 2020-2021

The NASA Nebraska Space Grant is proud of our funded students.  The profiles below highlight the excellent research and aerospace workforce development activities being undertaken in Nebraska this year. For 2019-2020 profiles, click here.

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Alyssa Anderson

College of Saint Mary

Alyssa Anderson is a senior at College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska. She is studying Biology with minors in Chemistry and Enviromental Sustainability with aspirations to pursue medical school. On top of her studies, Alyssa is also a collegiate athlete for College of Saint Mary's Golf Team. Furthermore, Alyssa is a Marie Curie Scholar and participates in CSM's Walk Tall Honor Program. College of Saint Mary provides an excellent organization for its students to participate in interactive learning opportunities. The Elementary Science Outreach Program brings hands-on activities to elementary classrooms in the Omaha-Metropolitan community. This program provides children the opportunity to learn and be exposed to science-based courses and basic scientific equipment. Furthermore, this program allows students from College of Saint Mary to interact with their peers as well as impact and spark interest of young minds within the Omaha community.

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Kaitlin Fraser

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Kaitlin Fraser is in her second year of the Biomechanics Master's program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  Her research is the examination of effects of isolation on children who have undergone isolation. Adaptations to brain activity during movements, along with communication and behavioral skills will be measured shortly after participants leave the hospital and again after a six-week intervention. This research will contribute to understanding of how isolation can lead to measured neural adaptations over time, directly addressing a lack of quantitative brain research methods, brain imaging studies, and motor control assessments associated with clinical isolation. Results will provide foundation for further research techniques in more accurate assessment of the impacts of prolonged isolation during long periods of space exploration by astronauts. Results and methods can be adapted to support future rehabilitative interventions.


Joshua McDowell

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Joshua McDowell is a 2nd year Ph.D. student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center working in Dr. Rebecca Oberley-Deegan's Lab in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Joshua is currently researching potential methods to mitigate the chronic effects of radiation exposure during cancer treatment by examining the protective role of adiponectin signaling. Adiponectin is a protein secreted by fat cells that has known anti-inflammatory, anti-fibrotic and antioxidant properties, and Dr. Oberley-Deegan’s lab has shown that adipocytes, or fat cells, signaling through adiponectin mitigate the harmful effects of radiation on fibroblasts. Joshua is testing the ability of adipocyte signaling to mitigate the negative effects of radiation damage, like cell death and DNA damage. He will also test the effectiveness of MnTnBuOE-2-Pyp at protecting adipocytes and other cells to identify its potential for further study as a protective agent for astronauts.


Alisha Huynh

Chadron State College 

Alisha Huynh is currently a senior at Chadron State College pursing a degree in Chemistry. She plans to graduate in the Spring of 2020. After her undergraduate studies, she plans to attend medical school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE. With the aid of the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Fellowship and supervision of Dr. Mary Keithly, she plans on focusing her research on Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and potential starting points for treatments. She plans on determining if there is an inhibitor of the FosB enzyme that is effective in increasing the efficacy of treatments for Gram-positive bacteria that are similar to MRSA. The objective of the study is to see if the molecule N-acetylglucosamine-malate (GlcNAc-Mal) can function to inhibit the FosB enzyme, an enzyme found in all Gram-positive bacteria. If GlcNAc-Mal is able to inhibit the FosB enzyme in vitro, experimentation will be done on Bacillus subtilis, in vivo, using various concentrations of the antibiotic fosfomycin with the FosB inhibitor, through a disk diffusion assay to determine if antibiotic resistance still occurs. Zones of inhibition will be measured and compared to see if the inhibitor works effectively.

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John Quigley

Creighton University 

John Quigly is a junior at Creighton University studying Biology and Environmental Science. Working alongside his research mentor, Dr. Mary Ann Vinton, he is am involved in a project relating ecological changes in the Nebraska Sandhills to human perceptions towards the environment in which they live. John's role in this project involves the use of a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle or “drone”) over the Sandhills for image analysis of vegetation cover change in these fragile, grass-stabilized sand dunes. To examine the surface-level changes in the Nebraska Sandhills, the drone will be used to image the landscape using its dual cameras in both the visible and near infrared spectrum. By complimenting Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) images with satellite and ground data, a better understanding of the processes that drive change and adaptation in the Nebraska Sandhills will be achieved. Upon graduation, John plans to attend graduate school for a PhD in the ecological sciences and pursue a career in natural resource management.

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Alyssa Bursott

Creighton University

Alyssa Bursott is a senior at Creighton University majoring in neuroscience with a minor in biology. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, she plans on attending medical school. Alyssa has worked closely with Dr. Joel Destino in Creighton’s chemistry department since May of 2019 investigating the origins and mechanics of luminescent silica nanoparticle synthesis. Her project involves replicating and dissecting various published procedures in order to determine the source of luminescence in these potential silica nanoparticles, as well as characterizing each fluorescence profile. Understanding the luminescence of these silica nanoparticles will allow for use as potential biosensors for organic materials, which may be used as an affordable method to continue current NASA explorations of potential life forms indicated by simple abiogenic compounds. In her final year as an undergraduate student, she will continue intensive control testing, perform fluorescence lifetime measurements on the generated nanoparticle samples, and examine purification techniques for these synthesis procedures. 

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Chloe Jensen

College of Saint Mary 

Chloe Jensen is a senior in her 4th year at the College of Saint Mary. She is majoring in Biology while minoring is Psychology, Chemistry, and Spanish. She is also a Marie Curie Scholarship student at CSM. She plans to complete her degrees in the Spring of 2021. From there she would like to pursue Medical School and specialize in Urology, OBGYN, or Dermatology. In the summer of 2018, Chloe participated in research at the University of Nebraska Lincoln where she and a CSM faculty member performed experiments to test different seed treatments with Plant Growth-Promoting Bacteria (PGPB) to see their effects on maize and sorghum. Chloe has also enjoyed tutoring her peers. 

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Anna Mahr

College of Saint Mary

 Anna Mahr attends school at the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, NE. She is studying Biology, and have plans to go on to Graduate school to study Genetics. She is very involved on campus holding positions in Residence Life and other student organizations. This is her second year working with the NASA Nebraska Fellowship. Anna is very thankful to continue to have this opportunity to conduct research, expecially in these uncertain times.

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David Salazar

University of Nebraska-Omaha

David Salazar is a PhD student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha studying the impact that 3D printed anatomical models have within the medical field. He first enrolled in 2017, receiving his Master's in Biomechanics in 2019 and continuing with his studies under his advisor Dr. Jorge Zuniga. While there have been many applications of 3D printed models for sugical applications, there has been limited application in the instruction of medical students. The goal of this project is to explore the application that advanced 3D printed models have in helping medical students understand complex orthopedic procedures.

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Savanna Wallin

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Savanna Wallin received her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, with a concentration in Medicinal Chemistry and a double major in Biology. Currently, she is a second-year Ph.D. student in Dr. Gloria Borgstahl’s lab at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She is studying DNA repair mechanisms and their implications in cancer. DNA damage is an indicative marker of cells pre-disposed to cancer. Double-stranded DNA breaks (DSBs) are the most severe form of damage and can be caused by radiation. The human body repairs this damage with either two processes: Non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) or homologous recombination (HR). Several cancers are known to be HR-deficient by BRCA gene mutation. Over 50% of ovarian cancers have this repair deficiency. Prior studies have shown that these cancerous cells rely on a parallel pathway (RPA and RAD52) to repair DSBs. The overarching goal is to identify the most promising drug inhibitors of this parallel pathway. 

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Chris Copeland

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Chris Copeland is a first year Biomechanics Doctoral Student and Graduate Assistant at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Prior, he received his B.S. in Biomechanics in May of 2018, and he has recently defended his thesis, "Development and Validation of Low-cost 3D Printed Upper Limb Prosthestic Simulators" for his M.S. He assists with research under Dr. Jorge Zuniga developing 3D printed prosthetic and assistive devices. With the NASA Space Fellowship Grant, he is investigating how the use of novel tools, such as prosthetic simulators, influence the plasticity of the brain. In this investigation he hopes to discover how the brain develops motor plans based on new tools, which may aid in training individuals using new devices developed by NASA.

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Gabrielle Baker

Creighton University

Gabby Baker is a senior at Creighton University earning degrees in Environmental Science, Philosophy, and Spanish. For the past year, she has been involved in the Sandhills Research Project, an interdisciplinary research study focused on developing a better understanding of the Nebraska Sandhills natural and social resources and structures. Along with her research advisor, Dr. Mary Ann Vinton, she has researched landcover changes in wet and dry years as well as created a comparison in landcover types and cover amount throughout the Sandhills. Gabby was awarded the Space Grant Fellowship for her project investigating how land managers in the Nebraska Sandhills rely on ground water resources and how they adapt their lands during severe weather events to produce hay crop, especially through the (de)construction of center pivot irrigation systems. She will be using remote sensing technology, specifically NASA and ESA satellite programs, Landsat and Sentinel, in order to observe and compare the Nebraska Sandhills' land cover changes overtime. 

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Garrett Beard

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Garrett Beard is a senior at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln pursuing a B.S. in Computer Engineering. He is currently working in UNL's LaSER lab under the guidance of Dr. Craig Zuhlke. Upon graduation in May 2021, Garrett will take a full-time position in the lab to complete his M.S. in Electrical Engineering. Garrett focuses his time in the lab on upgrading, maintaining, and installing computer hardware/control systems. With funding from Space Grant, Garrett will implement a new 6D-Laser motion system and apply its enhanced capabilities to NASA's LP-CHX project. This project was limited by the total working area and speed of old motion systems. The 6D-Laser system will support processing speeds two orders of magnitude higher and has a total working area of 200,000 square millimeters. 

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Will Randby

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Will Randby is a second year Electrical Engineering student at the University of Nebraska Omaha working under the direction of Dr. Jorge Zuniga. Will is currently employed at Stembot Inc redesigning the chassis and developing a manipulation apparatus for educational robots. He has extensive experience with 3D modeling in Fusion 360 and with 3D printing.

He will be resuming the work on the 3D printed hybrid actuation prosthetic arm project, first adapted from the Cyborg Beast prosthetic, developed Dr. Zuniga and his team in 2015. The goal of this project is to address the weaknesses of both body powered and electronically-driven prosthetics in one device, while simultaneously improving upon the previous generation design. Some areas of improvement to focus on include increasing the speed of the actuation and lowering the profile of the electronics, while still keeping the weight low and maintaining the same actuation strength.

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Andrew Butler

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Andrew Butler received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Nebraska in May 2020. He is now working towards his M.S. in Eectrical Engineering, working under Dr. Christos Argyropoulos in the Plasmonics, Metamaterials, and Integrated Nanophotonics Lab at UNL. His research interests include thermal emissions, plasmonics, and metamaterials. The aim of his Fellowship project is to use femtosecond laser surface processing to create materials capable of passive radiative cooling for use in thermal regulation systems.

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Stephanie Mace

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Stephanie Mace is currently a first year Master's student and Graduate Assistant through the Department of Biomechanics at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Before starting the Master's in Biomechanics, she received her B.S. in Athletic Training and a minor in Psychology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Stephanie currently works under Dr. Mukul Mukherjee assisting with stroke research. Through this research they are hoping to understand more of the complexity of stroke and it's effect on a stroke survivor's ability to maintain postural stability, interlimb coordination, and completion of dual tasks.

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Liz Pekas

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Liz Pekas completed her MS in exercise physiology last summer under Dr. Song-Young Park while working as a graduate assistant in the Vascular Research Lab at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Liz started her PhD work under Dr. Park last year and has 13 peer-reviewed publications, has received top placing awards for several poster presentations, and was invited to present her research at the International Student Research Forum this past year in Canada.

With the aid of the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Fellowship, Liz will study the impacts of prolonged sitting in mild hypercapnic conditions (elevated carbon dioxide). This includes exposing participants to a carbon dioxide concentration that is 4-5x the normal atmospheric concentration, which is similar to densely populated enclosed spaces such as offices and auditoriums. Maintaining intact vascular function after spaceflight specifically is a major concern, as zero gravity conditions and elevated in-flight carbon dioxide levels may negatively affect the vasculature, such as inducing arterial stiffness and endothelial dysfunction. This is particularly relevant, as arterial stiffness and endothelial dysfunction are key players in atherosclerosis.

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Alan Roden

Creighton University

Alan Roden is a junior at Creighton University majoring in physics and is planning on finishing his degree in the spring in 2022. He is a student-athlete and shares his time between the classroom and the baseball field as he is a member of the baseball team at Creighton. He hopes to continue on with his major in physics to pursue a career that fits his interest in astronomy. With the help of the NASA Nebraska Space Grant he will work on a research project that will be investigating the accretion mechanism that powers the enormous luminosities of quasars by developing and analyzing simulations of black hole accretion. The goal of his project is to identify more specifically the accretion mechanism that ends in the incredible brightness of quasars. The project will attempt to accomplish this goal by using an existing simulation that models emission variability in accretion disks and expanding on it by looking at the emission at wavelengths from Ultraviolet to infrared, combined with analyzing quasar data to determine constraints on the accretion process at different locations of the accretion disk. The results from simulation and the analysis of the data will allow us to make a conclusion about the accretion mechanism.

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Emily McMillon

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Emily McMillon is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, working under the supervision of Dr. Christine Kelley. Her research interests are in mathematical coding theory, with a focus on graph-based codes and iterative decoder analysis. Graph-based codes are codes having a sparse graph representation that makes them amenable to graph-based message-passing decoders. Due to their efficiency and low-complexity decoders, graph-based codes are prominent in deep space communication today, as well as in other applications such as video streaming and data storage. More specifically, she studies graph-based codes, which are codes whose representation or encoding and/or decoding can be visualized using a graph. Due to their efficiency and low-complexity decoders, today graph-based codes are used extensively in deep space communication, as well as in other applications such as video streaming and data storage. With the aid of the Nebraska Space Grant Fellowship, she will analyze absorbing sets in low-density parity-check (LDPC) codes to aid in decoder performance. She will also work on developing the theory of spatially-coupled LDPC (SC-LDPC) codes.

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Christopher Johnson

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Christopher Johnson is a senior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where he is majoring in Molecular and Biomedical Biology, with minors in Mathematics and Chemistry. His project is focused on exploring computer-aided design of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) for the development of novel broad-spectrum antimicrobials. In particular, Chris is studying DASamP2, developed at UNMC by Dr. Gus Wang, which is derived from a naturally occurring AMP but modified to increase its effectiveness at killing Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This common bacterial pathogen has been found on surfaces on the ISS and other space vehicles as far back as the Apollo missions. P. aeruginosa is only a mild threat to a healthy astronaut. However, it is naturally resistant to a wide range of existing antibiotics, often rapidly develops resistance to new antibiotics, and is also capable of damaging equipment, since it forms robust biofilms which promote the corrosion of metals and produces slime that can clog water filtration systems. The focus of Christopher’s current work are two mutant strains of P. aeruginosa, developed in Dr. Rowen’s lab at UNO, which demonstrate very high levels of resistance to DASamP2. 

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Jacob Cleveland

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Jacob Cleveland is a Junior studying Mathematics and Computer Engineering at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Jacob was awarded a mini-grant from the NASA Nebraska Space Grant last year to take Abstract Algebra I & II as well as participate in a seminar on Lie Groups and Lie Algebras both semesters, followed by a fellowship to continue studying Neural Network Comparison. Jacob spent summer 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio at NASA's Glenn Research Center where he performed research under the mentorship of Alan Hylton. During this internship, Jacob studied how Artificial Neural Networks could be classified and compared via Persistent Homology and the Discrete Wasserstein Metric. This past summer, Jacob made a triumphant return as a pathways intern to perform star tracking and space networking research. Jacob hopes to continue developing these projects through the NASA Nebraska Fellowship and perform more pathways rotations in the future. Upon graduation from UNO, Jacob would like to pursue a Mathematics PhD and convert to full time employment at NASA upon completion of the pathways internship.

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Nakomis Merrick

Nebraska Indian Community College

Nakomis Merrick, a sophomore at Nebraska Indian Community College, is working towards their Associate of Arts and will continue their education at a 4-year college. They are enrolled in the Omaha Nation and are interested in having a better understanding of the environment. They have a variety of interests which range from art to Indigenous culture to nature. They strive to have experience and to put forth the effort towards whatever is set in front of them.

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Adrianna Duarte

Nebraska Indian Community College

Adrianna Duarte is a descendant from both the Dakota and Omaha tribes along with Chicana lineage. With feelings of being part of a whole, Adrianna knew it was time to reclaim her cultural identity. While pursuing her Science degree at the Nebraska Indian Community College, she was able to explore how culture can have an impact on our environment. This new perspective comes from the opportunity presented by the NASA Nebraska Space Grant. Through this program she will be familiar with environmental research, monitoring, data collection and then presentation of findings. Through Adrianna’s educational journey, she has come to understand that human beings and Mother Earth are interconnected. With strategic planning we can do better in protecting and preserving the health of ourselves and the environment.

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Faith Grant

Nebraska Indian Community College

Faith Grant is a full-time student in her sophomore year at Nebraska Indian Community College Macy, NE. Faith plans to graduate with her Associate’s degree in General Science this upcoming Spring 2021. She is from the Umonhon Tribe and Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska and has grown up in Macy and Santee. Faith has a deep connection to her environment and native homelands. Her focus is on making a positive impact in her communities. Faith also plans on obtaining a degree in Native American studies as well. She is looking forward to working with NASA on this research program being able to gain new knowledge, experiences and memories. Faith believes this opportunity will help open new pathways of success in her future educational journey. This year, Faith will be continuing with NICC’s Environmental Monitoring project. 

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Brook Cayou

Nebraska Indian Community College

Brook Cayou is a Science Major at NICC in Macy, NE. Brook is a first year student in her fourth semester at NICC and also a first generation college student. She is goin gto schoo to become a Veterinarian as she has always loved animals and wants to make a career out of it. Brook has also been a science intern at NICC and got to accompany the NASA fellows on their to trip UNL in Lincoln, NE.she loved how there were so many diffferent projects that are presented at conference the students work on throughout the program. Brook is very excited to be apart of this great opportunity and is greatful to the NICC staff that work hard to get the students that attend the college the help they need, and to make the experience an great one. Her project is focused on Environmental Monitoring at the 3 NICC Nebraska. The project exposes students to research, lab work, data collection, and presentation of results. Everyday the student researchers take satellite images of the plots on santee campus, and take bi-weekly photos of each plot to show the changes to the paririe though the season utilizing time lapse photography.

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Lani Moran-Samqua

Nebraska Indian Community College

Lani Moran-Samqua is a student at Nebraska Indian Community College in Macy, Nebraska. Lani is working towards completing her Associate of Arts in Native American Studies with an emphasis on Environmental Science and History and Traditional Culture. She is an enrolled member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa; she was born and raised on the Omaha Indian Reservation in Nebraska. Her long-term research project compares local weather data from the Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC) Santee weather station with biological markers from the Santee Native Prairie Restoration Project. Both are located on the Santee campus and the four research plots occupy thirteen of those acres. The biological markers come from: satellite images of the research site, ground level photos of the four plots, plant inventories from all four plots, and soil samples from each of the four plots. Native prairie restoration management techniques consist of three consecutive years of spring mowing followed by a spring burning on the fourth year. This management regime will be included in the analysis and correlated with all other data. 

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Jahaun Azadmanesh

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Jahaun Azadmanesh is in his final semester of his Ph.D. studying under the supervision of Dr. Gloria Borgstahl at University of Nebraska Medical Center. Jahaun works on deciphering the workings of a radioprotective protein called human manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD). His research comes from the need of radioprotectants for astronauts traveling into deep space, as those who travel pass the earth’s protective magnetosphere harbor nearly a 50% incidence of mortality due to cardiovascular disease. Jahaun uses cutting-edge neutron crystallography techniques in conjunction with his collaborators at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to inch closer towards developing stable biopolymers that shield against the harmful radiation of deep space, as MnSOD is too quickly metabolized by the human body. The knowledge derived from these experiments offer the potential facilitate efficient molecular design of radioprotectants and contribute to the long-term cardiovascular health of astronauts.

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Ethan Krings

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Ethan Krings graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with minor degrees in Robotics Engineering, International Engineering, and German. He is currently a graduate student at UNL working towards a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics with a focus in Computational Methods. He is also a research assistant in the Smart Materials and Robotics Lab at UNL where his current research focuses on lightweight, flexible thermal management devices for aerospace applications. Experimental research over the past year has led to the development of a low-density, multiphase Ga-based liquid-phase filler that has a unique combination of properties including high thermal conductivity, low mass density, and high elongation when embedded into an elastomer. The goals of this project are to characterize the material properties of this composite and develop an optimization algorithm to maximize thermal performance while removing unnecessary mass. 

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Ethan Davis

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Ethan Davis is a PhD student in the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He studies fluid mechanics with an emphasis on the fundamentals of turbulence and their application in energy-saving flow control methods. Using computational techniques, Ethan’s project focuses on the dynamics of transitional flows over slip surfaces, and how a more fundamental understanding of these dynamics can lend insight into new energy-saving flow control strategies. The laminar-to-turbulent transition in fluid flows is a phenomenon that has been studied for centuries and, yet, is still not fully understood. The transition between these two states causes a dramatic change in the behavior of a system that significantly alters transport phenomena. Therefore, a better understanding of the laminar-to-turbulent transition is necessary as it plays a vital role in the design of many engineered systems. Slip surfaces are a promising technology in this respect due to their demonstrated ability to alter transition behavior and reduce frictional resistance in fluid systems. 

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Alissa Miller

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Alissa Miller is an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Health & Kinesiology as well as minors in Biomechanics and Psychology. She works under the direction of Dr. Jenna Yentes in the Department of Biomechanics. With the NASA Space Fellowship Grant, Alissa aims to measure maximal balance capacity before one falls. Once presented with the stress of gravity, the ability to maintain one’s balance is noticeably decreased in astronauts due to muscle loss in spaceflight. An astronaut’s ability to recover from a balance disruption is dependent on their maximum capacity to react. Thirty young-aged (25-40 yrs) subjects will be recruited and used as a surrogate population for astronauts. Future research can establish the utility of this test to be used upon return to gravity to determine balance loss due to spaceflight. Upon graduation, Alissa plans to pursue a Master’s of Science Degree.

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Dilziba Kizghin

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Dilziba is a Uyghur-American pursuing a bachelor's degree in Biological Systems Engineering as a junior, with minor degrees in Bio-medical Engineering and Computer Science.  Dilziba is a part of Society of Women Engineers, Engineers without Borders, and UNL Aerospace Club as well as being a part of the Honors Program and OASIS Intercultural Leadership Program. Dilziba has been engaged in research with Dr. Sangjin Ryu in the BioFlow lab since the summer before her Freshman year, studying the motion of Vorticella convallaria. The main research activity of this project is to record and analyze swimming patterns of Vorticella in the true and false swimming forms in 2D confinements of various gap heights.This study is essential in furthering our limited knowledge on micro-swimmers and to inventing micro-scale robots like Vorticella that are capable of going into engineering or physiological systems to diagnose problems. In particular, studying the swimming pattern of Vorticella in two-dimensional (2D) confinements is meaningful because such confinements represent engineering applications of micro-swimmers in microfluidic channels.

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Eric Vander Woude

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Eric Vander Woude is a junior at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a minor degree in Robotics. He is the Reporter of the Aerospace Club, and also a research assistant in the Smart Materials and Robotics Lab at UNL where his current research focuses on wearable sensors arrays for use in medical and aerospace applications. New monitoring methods will need to meet the ever-increasing demands of accurate, real-time feedback on physiological functions. However, current limitations of existing devices limit the tracking accuracy, comfortable wearability, and non-invasiveness of such monitoring. After completing his B.S., Eric is planning on staying at UNL to pursue a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a focus in Systems, Designs, and Controls.


Lillian Uhl

Nebraska Indian Community College

Lillian Ryan Uhl is an undergraduate student that studies in part with Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC) and is from originally from Sioux City, Iowa. She enjoys studying mathematics with a focus on multidisciplinary application, having taken extensive coursework in physics and electrical engineering as well as research and academic experience in computer science and chemistry. Through the NASA Nebraska Space Grant, Lillian will be focused on NICC’s Environmental Monitoring project that occurs across three campuses in Nebraska. In part, she will focus on environmental data processing as it relates to the study of soil and other agricultural and ecological research, which is then used to plan for agriculture in extreme environments. Annual satellite images of the plots being studied as well as converting biweekly plot photographs into time-lapse photography aids in demonstrating changes to the prairie through the season. 


Jamie Good Bird

Nebraska Indian Community College

Jamie Good Bird 30, enrolled member of the Santee Sioux Nation. Jamie is Dakota, Lakota, and Umonhon of Macy Ne. Currently a full-time student in her first year at Nebraska Indian Community College at Santee, Ne majoring in General Science. Jamie Good Bird will be participating in the NICC Environmental Monitoring Project with Faculty Mentor, Hank Miller. Through this project she will understand prairie restoration, soil sampling, plant inventories etc. She hopes to gain knowledge about how weather and management techniques influences biodiversity and successional changes in our prairie restoration plots.

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Ian DeRuiter

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Ian DeRuiter is a Senior Mathematics major at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Ian's project is to create a thrust vector controlled (TVC) model rocket. This means that he and his team will design a model rocket that is capable of angling the engine (rocket motor) and thus steering it straight up. Normally model rockets are aimed up by using aerodynamic pressures against the fins to keep an upwards direction. However, with a TVC model rocket, just as with real rockets, a gimbaling system is used to aim the downwards force of the thrust, thus directing the upwards velocity and keeping the rocket upright without fins.

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Lauren Sherman

Nebraska Indian Community College

Lauren Sherman is a member of the Omaha Tribe Of Nebraska. IShe is in her first year attending Nebraska Indian Communtiy College. She is a mother of two beautiful children, a son named Jerason and a daughter named Kaylee. Lauren is excited to be participating in the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Fellowship. She can't wait to learn and gain experience with joining the NASA Fellowship. She will be participating in the NICC Environmental Monitoring Project with my Faculty Mentor, Hank Miller. Mr. Miller will oversee the project implementation, progress, and research skill development.

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Nicholas Piercy

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Nicholas is in his first year of the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics graduate program at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. While pursuing an undergraduate degree in Computational Mathematics and a minor in Physics from the University of Nebraska - Omaha, Nicholas developed a passion for mathematics and has seen its ever-prominent presence in the world we live in.Prompted by his love for aerospace along with the helpful insight from faculty at both UNL and UNO, Nicholas has proposed to use the Finite Element Method (FEM) to solve/approximate the famous Navier Stokes equations using Galerkin methods. The Navier Stokes equations are a set of partial differential equations that describe the flow of viscous fluids, such as air flow around a wing, water flow through a channel, gas flow around an object, etc. With the help of the NASA Nebraska Space Grant, Nicholas will develop and implement a new Finite Element Method to solve the Navier Stokes equations. 

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Stephanie Vavra

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Stephanie Vavra is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Mathematics and Physics. Stephanie was selected as a Mechanical Engineering Intern at the NASA Ames Research Center's Aeromechanics Branch during the Summer of 2021. She also conducts research within the Moore Dynamics and Analytics Laboratory (MoDAL) at UNL during the 2021-22 academic year that involves the isolation of aircraft cabins from external disturbances. The goal of this research is to achieve one-way distribution of energy using nonlinear springs. This will decrease energy distribution from turbulence to the passengers in the aircraft. Previously, Stephanie has also held multiple leadership positions within the Aerospace Club, serving last year as President.


Melissa Holmes

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Melissa Holmes is a senior attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She is studying Mechanical Engineering with a minor degree in Mathematics for Engineers. As an undergraduate research assistant in the Smart Materials and Robotics Laboratory at UNL, she is analyzing the electromigratory properties of liquid metal with various nanoparticles. This research will contribute to the development of multifunctional materials used for human applications. She will also be involved with the research and basic design of the Cold Operable Lunar Deployable Arm for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This mechanism is required to function in extreme conditions and possess cryogenic capabilities.

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Nicholas Swerczek

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Nick Swerczek is a supersenior undergraduate at UNL dual-majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Piano Performance. Transferring to UNL his junior year, he became involved with NASA NE through the Aerospace Club, particularly the Lunabotics team and 100k Experimental Rocketry team, and is currently the head lead of 100k. He was a part of the JPL Universal Tool Rack and Changer project for his senior capstone, and will be continuing work on the project through his internship this summer.

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Emmanuel Encina-Garcia

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Emmanuel Encina-Garcia is a mechanical engineering student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is currently a junior in the program and is on track to graduate in May of 2022. Upon graduation, he will serve in the United States Air Force. Emmanuel has enjoyed the subjects of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, and kinematics. His biggest project to date was designing and kinematically analyzing a robotic gripper model. Emmanuel's major core values are work ethic, empathy, and loyalty.


Gabriel Clark

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Gabriel Clark is a Junior studying Software Engineering at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. His interests lie in mathematics and system design. When he isn't programming he enjoys making music with friends and long-distance running. Feel free to reach out to him on LinkedIn at

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Mark Chontos

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Mark Chontos is an enthusiastic learner studying mechanical engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is passionate about space, STEM outreach, and making a positive impact.

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