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STUDENTS 2019-2020

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 2018-2019 profiles, click here.

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. Ethan is currently a graduate student at UNL working towards a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics. 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. Lightweight, multifunctional composites have played a vital role in the advancement of the aerospace industry. New composite materials will need to be developed to meet the ever-increasing demands of thermal management systems. However, current limitations of existing composites include tradeoffs between thermal conductivity and stiffness, high mass density, risk of component failure, and lack of material programmability. After completing his M.S., Ethan is planning on staying at UNL to pursue a PhD in Mechanical Engineering.

Sarah McCarty


University of Nebraska at Omaha

Sarah McCarty is a senior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science. Under the mentorship of Dr. Griff Elder, she will work on making progress towards the classification of Hopf orders. Hopf orders are both algebras and co-algebras and therefore contain a lot of structure. She will begin with work on a conjecture stating the existence of certain Hopf orders.

Hopf algebras have been used to help understand physics of sub-atomic particles, such as the complex situations occurring in particle accelerators. Her project aims to develop a conjecture on the existence of Hopf orders based upon non-commutative groups and describe them. 

David Salazar


University of Nebraska at Omaha

David is a first year PhD student majoring in Exercise Science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He is currently a graduate assistant at the Biomechanics Research Building where he works with Dr. Jorge Zuniga to use 3D printing as a method of improving health care. 3D printing has been used to develop patient specific bolus; however current models are made from computed tomography images collected by hospitals. The purpose of this project will be to develop a methodology for a more accessible parametric bolus based on low-cost surface scan imaging and 3D printing that can easily be altered if necessary. David received his undergraduate degree from Creighton University in Exercise Science and Pre-Health Professions, and recently completed his Master’s Degree in Biomechanics at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His previous research investigated the use of 3D printed models to represent patient anatomy to help plan complex surgical procedures. The experience he gained through this research is now being used to assist the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in their development of similar patient models. Additionally, he assists with the manufacturing of 3D printed prosthetic limbs for child amputees. David hopes to continue using 3D printing to improve the quality and accessibility of health care.

Anna Mahr


College of Saint Mary

Anna Mahr is in her second year at the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, NE. She recently switched her major from Pre-Physician Assistant studies to Biology. From CSM she plans to pursue a degree in Genetic Counseling. When Anna is not in the classroom she takes part in many extracurriculars. In the summer of 2016, she participated in research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. There, she worked on a Cardiac floor conducting Western Blots during a heart failure study being conducted on rodents. Through the support of the NASA Space Grant, and under the supervision of Dr. Phyllis Higley, she will be studying the survivorship of Pythium in the hydroponic support substrate, Peat Moss. NASA plans to grow food in space for the astronauts. Plant diseases could limit that possibility. Previous research in her lab showed that Pythium does not survive long on peat moss while it does on other substrates. She will be evaluating factors that may contribute to the incompatibility of Pythium with peat moss. 

Joseph Keating


Chadron State College

Joseph Keating is a senior studying Chemistry at Chadron State College. His project is focused on providing a starting point for researchers to develop a combination therapy for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Astronauts spend extended periods of time in an isolated environment. Since one in three Americans harbor S. aureus in their nasal cavity, astronauts are at a higher risk of contracting an S. aureus infection. Fosfomycin has emerged as a possible treatment for MRSA. MRSA inactivates fosfomycin through nucleophilic addition of bacillithiol to Fosfomycin, which is catalyzed by the enzyme FosB. GlcNAc-Mal is an intermediate of the biosynthesis of bacillithiol and preliminary data suggest that it is a possible inhibitor of FosB. FosB will be expressed and purified and in vitro kinetic assays completed in the presence of bacillithiol with and without the presence of GlcNAc-Mal. Kinetic assays will be analyzed using HPLC. The data will indicate if GlcNAc-Mal effectively inhibits FosB and the type of inhibition. Inhibition of FosB would make Fosfomycin an effective treatment for MRSA infections. Upon graduating college, Joseph plans to attend medical school.

Liz Pekas


University of Nebraska at Omaha

Liz Pekas graduated from the University of South Dakota as an honors and thesis scholar with a BM in music performance and a BS in kinesiology. She interned with Sanford POWER in Sioux Falls, SD in 2017 and began her work with athletes as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. She later accepted a graduate research assistant position with Dr. Song-Young Park in 2018 at the University of Nebraska at Omaha Vascular Research Lab, produced 5 peer-reviewed publications with 2 currently in-press during her master’s career, and received her MS in August of 2019. Liz began her PhD work with Dr. Park in the summer of 2019 with a focus on the impact of aging and disease on vascular function. With the aid of the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Fellowship, she will study dietary nitrate as a therapeutic intervention for improving endothelial function and integrated oxygen transport and utilization in patients with peripheral arterial disease. Maintaining vascular function during and after space flight is a major concern. Reduced gravity and activity levels may induce negative vascular adaptations. Upon graduation in May 2023, Liz plans to complete a postdoctoral fellowship and pursue a career in academia and research.

Alexander Larson


Creighton University

Alexander Larsen is a senior at Creighton University earning degrees in Biology and Environmental Science along with a minor in Sustainable Energy. For the past two years he has been involved with an interdisciplinary team researching the Nebraska Sandhills. Working closely under the guidance of his research mentor, Dr. Mary Ann Vinton, Alexander has developed a familiarity with this highly unique socio-ecological system and an understanding of a variety of methods used to study this environment. Alexander was awarded the Space Grant Fellowship for his project investigating landscape dependent resiliency in the Sandhills using remote sensing technology. These tools include a remote-controlled drone capable of capturing data in the near infrared spectrum. By using specialized software, this information is used to map healthy vegetation over the landscape. This drone imagery will be complimented by both satellite and ground data to investigate landscape patterns in hopes to better understand ecological resiliency in the Sandhills region. After graduation Alexander plans to attend graduate school to earn a PhD in the ecological sciences and pursue a career where he can continue to investigate how we use, depend on, and affect our environment.

Chloe Jensen


College of Saint Mary

Chloe Jensen is a junior in her 3nd 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 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. The College of Saint Mary offers an excellent program for the students to experience a learning opportunity for themselves and young students K-12 called the Outreach Program. The College of Saint Mary Elementary Outreach program is a program designed to inspire young children with science experiments that their schools may not be able to provide them with (due to budgeting). The program does this by providing the experiments, supplies, and volunteer leaders to elementary school teachers and their students.  If we are able to provide new skills and science building activities, we believe young students will begin to spark interests and broaden the STEM fields. With the help of the NASA fellowship, children will begin to learn about our world at a younger age and change the world in the most enlightening way.

Jahuan Azadmanesh


University of Nebraska Medical Center 

Jahaun Azadmanesh is a 5th year Ph.D. student 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.

Maisie Habron


University of Nebraska Medical Center 

Maisie Habron received her B.S. in biological science in 2018 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) where she conducts research with the Clinical Movement Analysis (C-MOVA) Lab. Through the NASA Nebraska Space Grant, she will investigate how stimulating the soles of the feet with vibrating discs can enhance adult bodily awareness for several groups of people. As adults age, they experience a loss of sensation in their extremities and therefore are at greater risk of falling. Her study aims to enhance the perception of where their limbs are in space for older adults who are experiencing this loss of sensation, as well as enhance the bodily awareness of astronauts in environments of partial weightlessness.

Alexander White


Nebraska Indian Community College

 Alexander White is a student at Nebraska Indian Community College in Santee, Nebraska. He is an American Indian born in Sioux City, currently enrolled in the liberal arts degree. He loves to write and make music, even writing his own novella and music albums.

His project is focused on Environmental Monitoring project at the 3 NICC campuses in Nebraska. This project exposes students to research, lab work, data collection, and presentation of results. Every year they take a satellite image of the plots on the Santee Campus, and take biweekly photographs of each plot to show the changes to the prairie through the season, utilizing time lapse photography.

Stephanie Vavra


University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Stephanie Vavra is a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. She is the Outreach Coordinator of the Aerospace Club and a Lead of the Aerospace Club Rocketry team. Stephanie previously interned at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory where she designed robotic manipulators for future lunar missions. Under the supervision of Dr. Sangjin Ryu, Stephanie will be researching gravity-driven two-dimensional (2D) liquid drop formation within a liquid toy timer to developing a microfluidic drop generator for soil characterization on other planets.

The purpose of this research project is to create a two-dimensional gravity-driven drop generator, inspired by a liquid toy timer, to aid in the development of a more efficient drop generation method for NASA interplanetary research. Small scale models of the liquid toy timer will be fabricated and tested. After having a prototype that successfully duplicates the liquid drop formation, a microfluidic device will be fabricated for a final drop generator model.

Mason Rhodes


Creighton University

Mason Rhodes is a senior at Creighton University majoring in physics and mathematics. He will continue his research from 2018 investigating quasar outflow mechanisms using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey while also extending this study into the X-ray, UV, and infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Mason is attempting to provide a comprehensive understanding of the physical processes that drive these outflows in one of the most extreme regions in the Universe. Radiation driven accretion disk winds are a leading model for the broad absorption lines (BAL) observed in quasars. This investigation provides a crucial test of accretion disk wind models by comparing synthetic absorption spectral profiles to observed BAL parameters. He plans to pursue a Ph. D. in physics and continue to work in computational physics with the goal of working for NASA or a national research laboratory.

Camille Larson


University of Nebraska at Omaha

Camille Larson is a senior majoring in biology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She currently works in the Department of Education’s Exercise Physiology Laboratory where she researches skeletal muscle adaptations to acute exercise bouts in various temperature conditions.  Mitochondrial dysfunction is present in a variety of diseases, from neurodegenerative disorders to cancer. Space travel also causes mitochondrial dysfunction. Exercise combats this dysfunction by enhancing expression of PGC-1.

This gene leads to mitochondrial biogenesis, the process of creating new mitochondria. However, alternative splicing mechanisms cause this gene to be expressed as different isoforms, potentially altering its activity. In past studies, her lab has observed an enhancement of PGC-1 expression after an acute exercise bout in a more-extreme cold

environmental temperature, but the exact isoform is unknown. The purpose of her study is to examine the levels of expression of PGC-1 isoforms after exercise in a cold environmental temperature compared to exercise at room temperature conditions. These data may help optimize exercise-induced PGC-1 response and thus aid in the

development of temperature-optimized training protocols to combat mitochondrial dysfunction. Upon graduation in May of 2020, Camille hopes to attend Physical Therapy school to get a DPT followed by a Ph.D. in Rehabilitative Medicine.

Alan Rhoden


Creighton University

Alan Roden is a sophomore 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 ball 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.



University of Nebraska at Omaha

Claudia Cortes Reyes is a first year Biomechanics Master’s Student and Graduate Assistant at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Prior, she received her B.S. in Biomechanics in December of 2018. She assists with research under Dr. Jorge Zuniga developing 3D printed prosthetic and assistive devices. Claudia looks to advance her understanding of motor control and development by researching the neural and motor performance in upper limb deficient subjects.

Motor skills are altered in microgravity, which may lead to decreased manual dexterity. A decrease in manual dexterity could decrease the dynamic integration of grasping and other sensorimotor functions. The purpose of this study is to create an assessment of primary motor cortex activation and motor performance using continuous and

discrete tasks.

The results from this study will be translated into the design of a motor learning protocol for astronaut rehabilitation protocols. The dynamic integration of research and multimodal treatment plan approaches will aid Claudia in her future career goals as she prepares to continue her education as a physical therapy student.

Andrew Reicks


University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Andrew Reicks received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) in the spring of 2018. He is current pursuing a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at UNL as part of The Center for Electro-Optics and Functionalized Surfaces (CEFS). Through Space Grant, Andrew is investigating the optical properties of metal surfaces functionalized using femtosecond lasers. These surfaces would be used to improve thermal radiators on satellites and spacecraft. Heat is removed from satellites by radiating energy to space. This is accomplished by use of high emissivity coatings on internal components and radiator panels. However, these coatings add weight, and degrade over time. As an alternative to these coatings, a surface functionalization technology known as femtosecond laser surface processing (FLSP) can be used to produce a surface with tunable optical properties. Previous research has shown promising results using FLSP to produce high emissivity surfaces. The first goal of this project is to use statistical analysis to build relationships between processing parameters and emissivity in order to improve the surface properties and processing efficiency. The second goal is to better understand the durability of FLSP surfaces. Improvements on current thermal management technology would affect a broad range of spacecraft as current thermal management systems can consume a significant portion of the weight budget and limit processing power.



College of Saint Mary

Hannah Horne is currently attending College of Saint Mary. She is going into her second year as a Biology major. With the degree Hannah plans to pursue studies as a Physical Therapist. Hannah’s involvement on campus has included Student Senate, Resident Advisor, Walk Tall Honors Program, Science Outreach, and a student athlete on the softball team. Hannah has spent her summers working in a Physical Therapy clinic. Under the supervision of Dr. Phyllis Higley and funded by NASA Space Grant, Hannah will be studying the growth of Pythium root rot on different hydroponic mediums.

The international Space Station is using VEGGIE (Vegetable Production System) to grow salad greens for consumption. Plant culture could be limited by plant disease. One plant disease that is a common problem in moist plant culture similar to VEGGIE is Pythium root rot. There are many species of Pythium that cause damping off, root rot, and stunted growth in hundreds of plant species. The proposed research is to evaluate the ability of Pythium to move from substrate material to plant roots and then to cause disease in hydroponically grown plants. Because there are similarities between hydroponics and the VEGGIE system, this research will provide valuable information that will contribute to the effective management of plant disease in plants grown in space.



University of Nebraska Medical Center

Michael Trevarrow obtained his B.S. in neuroscience at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2017. He is now working toward a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Using brain imaging technologies such as electroencephalography and magnetoencephalography, as well as brain stimulation methods such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, he explores sensorimotor functioning and integration in the cortex and spinal cord. His work can be extended to provide information on how physiology is affected while astronauts are in space.

Neuronal populations are active at different rhythms, and studying these rhythms can aid in the understanding of how impairments in certain behavioral functioning may arise. In individuals with sensorimotor impairments, neuronal populations display altered rhythmic activity while performing different sensory and motor tasks. While this has been well established, the activity of neuronal populations at rest, termed spontaneous activity, and how this affects sensorimotor functioning is unknown. The current research project aims to identify the mechanism by which the spontaneous activity affects sensory and motor impairments. This research can be utilized to better the understanding of how the brain activity of astronauts is affected when returning from space flight.

Jena-Claire Auten


Creighton University

Jena-Claire Auten is completing her second year of coursework in pursuit of a Doctorate of Physical Therapy at Creighton University. She graduated from Angelo State University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and in 2014 from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in 2014 with her Doctor of Philosophy  degree in Biomedical Sciences. Her research interests include examining molecular mechanisms of atrophy in quadriceps muscles following ACL trauma and reconstruction. Under the guidance of Dr. Terry Grindstaff, her fellowship project will explore the molecular mechanisms underlying muscular atrophy during extended periods in a zero gravity environment. Astronauts subjected to extended lengths of time in zero gravity environments experience significant reductions in muscle mass. Understanding the underlying mechanisms for the cellular changes that result in muscle atrophy in post-flight astronauts is crucial to developing successful prevention and rehabilitation strategies. Her study plans to address this issue by determining the metabolic changes involved in muscle growth and atrophy in subjects.

Peter Palencia


Creighton University

Peter Palencia is a third-year undergraduate student at Creighton University, majoring in chemistry with the goal of attending graduate school. During his time at Creighton University, he conducted research to develop luminescent nanoparticles for chemical sensing. He also volunteered weekly at Completely Kids which provides an after-school program for low-income families. Over this past summer, Peter worked within the Optical Science and Technology group in the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) through the Department of Energy’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship. During his stay at LLNL, he developed new ink feedstocks for the fabrication of 3D printed optical glass. His research will develop a handheld sensor for polyaromatic hydrocarbons, which provides a different way to detect PAHs. This could be more useful in real time situations, instead of analyzing these samples through a gas chromatograph. By developing a hand-held device, astronauts would be able to immediately collect and understand data about their surroundings. Hand-held detectors could provide simpler signal processing without any significant expertise and data interpretation.

Kinsley Mason


Chadron State College

Kinsley Mason received her B.S. in Biology with a Molecular Biology option in 2018 from Chadron State College. She is currently working on her M.A.E. with a Physical Science concentration at Chadron State College. She is the Graduate Assistant for the Natural Science department and a public outreach docent for the Lois Veath Planetarium. Her research includes the biological processes used to convert siderite into iron oxides through microbial mediation, and how these processes could help the investigation into past bacterial life on Mars.

The discovery of hematite spherules on Mars by the twin rovers Opportunity and Curiosity has opened up a discussion on the formation of iron oxide concretions both on Mars and on Earth. Studies have shown that formation of iron oxide concretions could occur under the influence of biotic factors, such as iron-oxidizing bacteria. The conversion of siderite into iron oxide is being meditated by the molecular processes of bacteria. In a controlled laboratory environment these processes can be studied in depth and analyzed. Thus creating an analog for the creation of iron oxide concretions on Mars.

Ethan Davis


University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Ethan Davis is a PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He studies fluid mechanics with an emphasis on the fundamentals of turbulence with application to energy-saving engineering. Ethan's project is concerned with computational studies on the dynamics of viscoelastic flows over slip surfaces, and how a more fundamental understanding of these dynamics can lend insight into new energy-saving flow control. Polymer solutions are among several classes of complex fluids that display behavior inconsistent with the no-slip assumption. Understanding boundary conditions at the wall plays a vital role in correctly determining the rheology of polymers by allowing for corrections due to slip. Additionally, the presence of surface roughness or low surface energy coatings

that are often used for drag reduction can alter these behaviors. A more fundamental understanding of the dynamics of these flows will help further efficiencies of systems, such as heat exchangers, vital to NASA missions.


Jamie Bish


University of Nebraska at Omaha

Jamie Bish is currently a senior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She will graduate in May 2019 with a Spanish major and minors in psychology and chemistry and hopes to continue her education in medical school following graduation. She is currently a research assistant in Dr. Janelle Beadle’s gerontology lab, investigating relationships between aging, prosocial behavior, and empathy. Caregiving and stress are also central parts of this research. Jamie hopes that their work can help guide the development of protocols for stress reduction and effective communication for not only caregivers, but also others working under stressful conditions, including NASA employees. This is relevant to NASA because NASA missions may involve stressful, high stakes communication between astronauts and mission control in order to communicate accurate information that will support successful missions. She will examine the relationship between written communication to others and the link to feelings of stress, empathy, and loneliness. This will be the first step towards developing interventions designed to reduce stress and increase positive emotions such as empathy in settings relevant to NASA missions.


Jacob Cleveland


University of Nebraska at Omaha

Jacob Cleveland is a sophomore 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. Following the completion of these courses, Jacob spent the summer 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. Jacob hopes to continue studying ANN's through the NASA Nebraska Fellowship and possibly go back to Glenn next summer to further develop his research. Jacob would also like to alternatively pursue a pathways internship at Glenn that would possibly allow him to convert to full time employment at NASA as a civil servant. Upon graduation from UNO, Jacob would like to pursue a Mathatics PhD and possibly work for NASA as well as teach and do research at a college or university.


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 currently works as a student worker under the direction of Dr. Jenna Yentes in the Department of Biomechanics. With the NASA Space Fellowship Grant, Alissa is studying the effects of vitamin D supplementation on balance in persons with chronic kidney disease. This populations serves as a surrogate model for astronauts with bone and muscle loss. Supplementation of vitamin D (vD) may assist with balance. Her study will examine two different vitamin D supplementation amounts and evaluate their effect on balance using a surrogate population for astronauts. Seventy to 90% of patients with chronic kidney disease are vD deficient and have balance deficits. Thirty patients with kidney disease will be recruited and randomized into two groups: 4000 or 800 IU/day vD. Blood draws and balance will be collected at baseline and 3-months. Balance sway properties will be calculated and correlated with vD levels, and used to determine balance and vD differences in the two groups at the two visits. The proposed research aligns with Obj.1.2 in the NASA Strategic Plan, allowing increased knowledge about vD on balance. Thus, increasing spaceflight safety and creating advancements in scientific research leading to the betterment of human kind. Upon graduation, Alissa will pursue a Master’s of Science. 


Henry Ems


University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Henry Ems received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) in 2013. He went on to receive his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics from UNL in 2015 and is currently pursuing a PhD at UNL through research efforts in the Multiscale Heat Transfer Lab (MHT). In collaboration with the Center for Electro-Optics and Functionalized Surfaces (CEFS) at UNL, Henry currently performs drag studies on metallic surfaces with femtosecond laser surface processing (FLSP) to investigate drag reduction/enhancement. With the support from the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Fellowship, Henry will continue his work on further studying drag reduction using FLSP functionalization on aluminum surfaces. NASA is interested in aluminum for its strength and lightweight.


Stacy Thornton.jpg


College of Saint Mary

Stacy Thornton is a senior in her second year at College of Saint Mary. She is double majoring in Human Biology and Chemistry. Stacy is part of the research team at College of Saint Mary that is focused on utilizing the antioxidant effects of Curcumin and Quercetin for reducing and preventing disease and inflammation caused by oxidative stress on the body. The aim of her work is to investigate different phytochemicals such as potent antioxidants for astronauts. These successful antioxidant combinations can be harnessed to prevent the degenerative diseases caused by oxidative stress associated with space travel. Thanks to the NASA Grant Fellowship program, Stacy will be able to further the group's research by applying the use of nanoparticle technology to increase the absorption and efficacy of the Curcumin and Quercetin formulations. After completing her undergraduate in the Spring of 2021, Stacy plans to complete her Master's of Physician Assistant Studies at CSM.

Roberto Saavadra


University of Nebraska at Omaha

Roberto Saavedra is an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a Major in Computer Science. He is working towards a Bachelors degree and currently works in the Department of Biomechanics. In this department, Roberto designs and evaluates the functionality of prosthetic devices through the use of 3D printing technology. With these skills he will develop a customizable surgical kit using anti-microbial printing material for use by astronauts in orbit. A printable surgical kit will allow for easier access to tools that would normally require longer wait times. Many challenges face astronauts on orbit that limit long term space missions. Previous studies have explored the microbial risk associated with life in microgravity. This project aims to combat the bacterial susceptibility of astronauts by using a newly formulated 3D printing material with antimicrobial properties to produce a customizable 3D printed surgical kit.


Halee Keller.jpg


University of Nebraska at Omaha

Halee Keller is from Humphrey, a small town in northeast Nebraska. She is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska Omaha and is pursuing a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Psychology. Halee spent two years doing research in the Exercise Physiology Laboratory at UNO, as a member of the Nebraska INBRE program. With the support of the NASA Nebraska Space Grant, she plans to continue her research looking into the effects of exercise and environmental temperature on mitochondrial quantity and quality. Space flight is known to result in oxidative damage and mitochondrial dysfunction. This dysfunction has been linked to many common diseases. Environmental temperature conditions during space flight are anticipated to be extreme. Exercise training increases mitochondrial development within skeletal muscle and acclimation to environmental temperature with exercise may be protective for those in space flight. This study will analyze the effects of exercise training with 3 weeks temperature acclimation on mitochondrial quantity and quality.


Matthew Froid


University of Nebraska at Omaha

Matthew Froid is a senior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, pursuing a B.S. in biology and a minor in mathematics. Matthew’s previous research experience includes molecular genetics, systems biology, and the design of deterministic Boolean models of macrophage cell signaling networks in response to HIV interactions. Through the NASA Nebraska Space Grant, he will be optimizing an algorithm for identifying attractors in large-scale models of dynamic systems. Properties emerge from dynamic large-scale networks that are not easily discernible from the individual components of such a system, as is seen in nearly every area of science, from spaceflight to molecular biology. Analyzing mathematical models of these systems and locating the attractors – physical properties or states in which a system tends to evolve towards regardless of starting conditions– is one way of studying emergent properties. Optimizing this method of analyzing large systems provides new insight as to how the individual components are interconnected and how emergent properties come to be. To explore how attractors can be identified in large-scale dynamic systems, he will use a previously constructed large-scale model of protein interactions to design and optimize algorithms to identify the model’s attractors. After graduation, Matthew plans on attending UNO for an M.A. in mathematics.


Inessa Lyons


Nebraska Indian Community College

Inessa is from Macy, Nebraska and is a member of the Omaha Nation. She has attended Nebraska Indian Community College since the fall of 2019. She is pursuing an Associates of Science at NICC and will pursue her bachelor’s degree after that. Inessa is thankful for this research opportunity and is excited to learn more about environmental monitoring research and how it can effect human health. This project is focused on Environmental Monitoring at the 3 NICC campuses in Nebraska. The project exposes students to research, lab work, data collection, and presentation of results. Every year the student researchers take a satellite image of the plots on the Santee Campus, and take biweekly photographs of each plot to show the changes to the prairie through the season utilizing time lapse photography.

Max DiPrince


Creighton University

Max is a sophomore student at Creighton University double majoring in Physics and Sustainable Energy Sciences. He is conducting research with Dr. Andrew Baruth and Dr. Dave Sidebottom from the Creighton University Physics Department on implementing Glycol-derived Carbon in Nanocrystalline Injection Solar Cells to boost external quantum efficiency. He hopes to develop an efficient solar cell that can be produced in space using organic materials. In comparison to natural photoelectric conversion effects, such as photosynthesis, Nanocrystalline Injection Solar Cells (also known as Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells or DSSCs) use a similar process to generate electrical energy from sunlight.

Estelle Farley


Nebraska Indian Community College

Estelle Farley is a student at Nebraska Indian Community College in Santee, Nebraska. She is working on completing her Associate of Science and Associate of Arts degrees. Estelle is looking forward to graduating in the spring of 2020. She is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, born and raised on the Navajo Indian reservation in Arizona. She is involved in environmental monitoring and no-till garden research at NICC. Her project is focused on Environmental Monitoring at the 3 NICC campuses in Nebraska. The project exposes students to research, lab work, data collection, and presentation of results. Every year the student researchers take a satellite image of the plots on the Santee Campus, and take biweekly photographs of each plot to show the changes to the prairie through the season utilizing time lapse photography.

Her strong belief in her culture has brought her back to school which has helped her in her life choices and direction in life.

Grant Moles


University of Nebraska-Omaha

Grant Moles is a senior Electrical Engineering and Mathematics student at UNO. He is a peer tutor at the Math-Science Learning Center and serves as a high school Academic Decathlon coach at Johnson County Central. His project involves studying Galois extensions and Hopf algebras with Dr. Griff Elder. Hopf algebras are an area of cutting-edge research in mathematics. This project will work to classify and describe Hopf orders for nonabelian groups of order p^n. Specifically, it will work toward a conjecture that will work for these groups of order p^3. Through this research, a more general understanding of Hopf algebras will be gained and the field may be advanced. This will help in areas in which Hopf algebras are pertinent, such as the study of subatomic particles. Later, he plans to pursue further education in mathematics and earn his PhD.  

Kendra Wiese.JPG


College of Saint Mary

Kendra Wiese, a sophomore at the College of Saint Mary, is majoring in Biology and minoring in Spanish on the pre-med track. She is a Marie Curie Scholarship student and plans to graduate in 2022. Once completing her undergrad, Kendra would like to pursue Medical School. Kendra has become involved at the College of Saint Mary as a dual sport student-athlete on the soccer and golf teams. She is also a member of the Math and Science Club along with the AAPISO Club at CSM. She also spends time volunteering as a homework tutor at Girls Inc. With the NASA fellowship and supervision of Dr. Higley, Kendra will study the effects of Pythium rot root on several species of plants grown in calcined clay or potting medium at high and low temperatures. Results from this research will contribute to the ability to grow plants in space with minimal or without any rot root.

Nathan Jensen


University of  Nebraska-Lincoln

Nathan Jensen attend the University of Nebraska - Lincoln from 2014 to 2018, obtaining a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. During that time, he was a co-lead of the university's rocketry team for two years and conducted robotics research. He spent two summers as an intern at NASA Ames Research Center, performing analysis on test rotors for the Mars Helicopter mission. This summer, he worked as an intern at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, analyzing inverse kinematics and using the results to write a control algorithm for a robotic arm that will dock CubeSats together in Earth orbit. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at UNL, continuing his robotics research into parallel architectures.

Parallel robotic mechanisms have been shown to work well in large-scale simulation applications such as flight simulators. The data from his studies will allow for both an improved understanding of a parallel system and the possibility of the system being used to prepare for future interplanetary missions. Nathan will pursue employment at NASA at the conclusion of his education.

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Chadron State College

Brittany Lovett is an undergraduate student at Chadron State College. She is a senior currently working on her B.S. in Geoscience. Her research as a NASA Nebraska Fellowship recipient will focus on the applications of portable x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) as a means of locating biological markers within sediments that could indicate the existence of past life. XRF technology is used for the elemental analysis of rocks and soils, and can provide fine-scale details about their chemical composition. This technology can be used remotely, making it valuable for NASA in their Mars 2020 and future missions. This research will aim to develop a catalog of analog sites and geological samples where XRF has been used to find biomarkers, such as fossils or simple organic compounds. The results of this study are meant to aid future missions in identifying similar sediments on Mars that have the greatest probability of containing evidence of former life.

Anthony Sharpfish


Nebraska Indian Community College

Anthony Sharpfish is a student at NICC, and is hoping to graduate this Spring with an Associate’s Degree in general liberal arts. He was born in Yankton, SD and then moved to Sioux City, IA at the age of five. Anthony is an enrolled member of the Sisseton Whapeton Oyate Sioux tribe. He is very excited and really looks forward to being a part of this year's NASA fellowship program. His project is focused on Environmental Monitoring at the 3 NICC campuses in Nebraska. The project exposes students to research, lab work, data collection, and presentation of results. Every year the student researchers take a satellite image of the plots on the Santee Campus, and take biweekly photographs of each plot to show the changes to the prairie through the season utilizing time lapse photography.

Brooke Cayou


Nebraska Indian Community College

Brook Cayou, age 23, is a Science Major at NICC in Macy, NE. Brook is a first year student in her second semester at NICC. She is going to school 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 trip to UNL in Lincoln, Nebraska. She loved how there were so many different projects that are presented at the conference that students work on throughout the program. She is excited to be a part of this great opportunity and is grateful to the NICC staff that work hard to get the students who attend the college the help they need and also make the experience a great one. Her project is focused on Environmental Monitoring at the 3 NICC campuses in Nebraska. The project exposes students to research, lab work, data collection, and presentation of results. Every year the student researchers take a satellite image of the plots on the Santee Campus, and take biweekly photographs of each plot to show the changes to the prairie through the season utilizing time lapse photography.



University of Nebraska at Omaha

Michael Thompson is a senior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha studying Biomechanics and working as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in the Biomechanics Research Building. Michael works as a member of Dr. Zuniga's research team producing custom, low cost 3D printed prosthetic, orthotic, and assistive devices. Michael's research also focuses on applications of In Space additive manufacturing for medical and non medical equipment using novel 3D printing materials and methods. Additionally, this project aims to eliminate logistical supply issues for spaceflight missions by allowing astronauts to produce custom tools and equipment aboard the Space Station using a highly durable 3D printing material known as PETG.    As part of a NASA Space Grant, Michael interned at Made In Space in Jacksonville, FL for the 2019 summer. Made In Space is a NASA contracted, in space manufacturing and engineering consultant dedicated to the industrialization of the space environment. After graduation, Michael plans to continue seeking opportunities related to in space manufacturing.

Noelle Carillo


Nebraska Indian Community College

Noelle Carrillo is from the Omaha Tribe located in Macy, Nebraska. She is a full time student at the Nebraska Indian Community College where she is working towards a degree in Science. She is employed part time at Omaha Tribe Headstart. One day she hopes to become an Environmental Scientist and an Herbalist. Her project is focused on Environmental Monitoring at the 3 NICC campuses in Nebraska. The project exposes students to research, lab work, data collection, and presentation of results. Every year the student researchers take a satellite image of the plots on the Santee Campus, and take biweekly photographs of each plot to show the changes to the prairie through the season utilizing time lapse photography. Her long-term goals include being a fluent speaker in her language and being able to fulfill her commitment to provide sustainable herbs and medicines to her people. 

pablo Read


Creighton University

Pablo Read is a junior at Creighton University majoring in biology and Spanish. He will complete his degrees in May 2021 and plans to enter the medical field after he graduates. He is a member of the Creighton Honor’s Program and the university’s chapter of the Phi Sigma Biological Sciences Honors Society. Pablo’s love for science has led him to participate in research and work as a chemistry teaching assistant. He has explored and developed his desire to pursue a clinical career by engaging in various activities including volunteer work at the Janet Pomeroy Center, Creighton’s Child Development Center, and the Mission Neighborhood Health Center. He is driven towards one day having a career that combines his zest for healthcare and research. This goal is reflected in his current research project which hopes to use epigenetics to reduce the inflammation related to atherosclerosis, a cardiovascular disease that astronauts have been found to be at higher risk than the general population. 

Susan Morris


Nebraska Indian Community College

Susan Morris is a Sophmore at the Nebraska Indian Community College at Macy. She is studying for her Associates of Science Degree. After graduation, she plans to transfer and pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Her research focuses on Environmental Monitoring Through Prairie Restoration Research; utilizing time lapse photography, soil analysis, plant inventory, and local weather data. She wants to study how our environmental monitoring research can help influence community health. Her project is focused on Environmental Monitoring at the 3 NICC campuses in Nebraska. The project exposes students to research, lab work, data collection, and presentation of results. Every year the student researchers take a satellite image of the plots on the Santee Campus, and take biweekly photographs of each plot to show the changes to the prairie through the season utilizing time lapse photography.

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Nebraska Indian Community College

Kenneth R. Carufel is currently a student attending the Nebraska Indian Community College who is pursing a degree in Applied Science of Carpentry. His expected graduation is due for the spring of 2021. In addition to his class load, the NASA Fellowship program has become a newfound interest and opportunity for information to extend to his community youth. His project is focused on Environmental Monitoring at the 3 NICC campuses in Nebraska. The project exposes students to research, lab work, data collection, and presentation of results. Every year the student researchers take a satellite image of the plots on the Santee Campus, and take biweekly photographs of each plot to show the changes to the prairie through the season utilizing time lapse photography.

Kassie Phillips


Nebraska Indian Community College

Kassie S. Phillips is currently attending the Nebraska Indian Community College pursing a degree in Business Management and Entrepreneurship and graduating in spring 2020. She wants to participate in the NASA Fellowship program because the projects NICC are working on are very important and influential to her community. She believes this project, “Environmental Monitoring Through Native Prairie Restoration” will help inform her community about the environmental changes due to climate change. The project is focused on Environmental Monitoring at the 3 NICC campuses in Nebraska. The project exposes students to research, lab work, data collection, and presentation of results. Every year the student researchers take a satellite image of the plots on the Santee Campus, and take biweekly photographs of each plot to show the changes to the prairie through the season utilizing time lapse photography.

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 Tribal Leadership and History and Traditional Culture.  Lani is looking forward to graduating in the spring of 2020.  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.  Lani’s strong belief in her culture and language has brought her to further her college education at NICC. 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. They hope to gain knowledge about how weather and management techniques influences biodiversity and successional changes in the prairie restoration plots.

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