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 2020-2021 profiles, click here.

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Greg Acosta

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Greg Acosta is a PhD student in the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He currently works in the Nebraska Nanoscale Energy Engineering lab under the supervision of Dr. Mohammad Ghashami. Greg’s research involves the study of the thermal transport process of nanoconfined rarefied gases via experimental and theoretical techniques. This involves quantifying gas-surface interactions by experimentally determining the energy accommodation of monatomic, diatomic, and polyatomic rarefied gases subjected to various temperature gradients.

Eli Blaney

Eli Blaney

Creighton University

Eli Blaney is an undergraduate student at Creighton University pursuing a B.S. in Biology, Comptuer Science, and Music. Researching memory safety in aerospace software with Dr. Catherine Baker, his project leverages modern computational paradigms to optimize efficiency and reduce memory leaks. Eli uses the emerging systems programming language Rust to optimize NASA's F Prime flight software and embedded systems framework. He additionally researches bioinformatics in the lab of Dr. Soochin Cho, where he develops machine learning algorithms to predict the functional interactions of proteins. Upon graduation, Eli intends to attend an MD/PhD program.

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Joann Jones

Western Nebraska Community College

oann Jones is currently a sophomore student taking Computer Science at Western Nebraska Community College. She achieved a Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering in the Philippines before moving to the United States. Her goal is to finish her Associates degree in Computer Science and move to university to continue her Bachelor's degree. 

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Elizabeth Pekas

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Liz Pekas is a third-year PhD student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and works as a graduate research assistant in the Vascular Research Lab under Dr. Song-Young Park. Since beginning her graduate studies, Liz has 15 peer-reviewed publications, with her most recent first-author publication in the American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology. This past year, she was also selected as a recipient of the Helen Hansen Outstanding Graduate Student Award. Liz’s research primarily focuses on vascular dysfunction and the pathophysiology of vascular diseases.

Savanna Wallin

Savanna Wallin

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Savanna Wallin is a third-year Ph.D. student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Dr. Gloria Borgstahl's laboratory. Her project focuses on therapeutically targeting the DNA damage repair protein, RAD52, and its applicability in cancer treatment. RAD52 acts as a life-line in certain cancers that are deficient in homologous recombination—a repair mechanism for double-stranded breaks in DNA. This research is of interest to NASA because ionizing radiation causes DNA damage, including double-stranded breaks, increasing the risk of cancer. Ionizing radiation remains a barrier to long-term crewed missions in space. Her research aims to understand the DNA damage response and how it can be manipulated as a cancer therapeutic, with the long term goal of developing a new line of selective cancer therapies.

Eric Vander Woude

Eric Vander Woude

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Eric Vander Woude is a senior at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a minor degree in Robotics. He is the Multimedia Director of the Aerospace Club, and also a research assistant in the Smart Materials and Robotics Lab at UNL where his current research focuses on shear-thickening fluid encased elastomers. Providing new methods for creating non-linear energy sinks. 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.

Ethan Krings

Ethan Krings

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Ethan Krings is a PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics. He received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from UNL with minor degrees in Robotics Engineering, International Engineering, and German. He is 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. Through this fellowship, Ethan aims to develop an additive manufacturing (AM) method that is informed by a thermal topology optimization routine to fabricate high-performance polymer composite materials for NASA-relevant heat-transfer applications in which reduction of weight is critical. 

Andrew Butler

Andrew Butler

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Andrew 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 surfaces with controlled directional thermal emissions. This development will have great impact in thermal technologies such as thermophotovoltaics, radiative cooling, and thermal imaging.

Chastity Warrior

Chastity Warrior

Nebraska Indian Community College

Chastity Warrior is a General Liberal Arts student at Nebraska Indian Community College. It has been an opportunity to be part of this research team; she started last year's spring semester. She never knew that doing the research would help her learn and discover a lot about our environment and the importance of its individuals' existence.

Lani Moran-Samqua

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. Lani graduated in the spring of 2021 and is currently attending University of Nebraska in Omaha. 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. 

John Quigley

John Quigley

Creighton University

John Quigley is a senior at Creighton University studying Biology and Environmental Science. Working alongside his research mentor, Dr. Mary Ann Vinton, he is involved in a project studying ecological changes in the Nebraska Sandhills, specifically studying blowouts--or wind-eroded sandy depressions. For this project, he uses 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 blowout size change and adaptation in the Nebraska Sandhills will be achieved. Upon graduation, John plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in natural resource management.

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Sarah Alsuleiman

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Sarah Alsuleiman is a junior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is currently majoring in molecular and biomedical biology and minoring in chemistry. As an undergraduate student researcher, she is involved in biomedical research focusing on molecular parasitology and immunology in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Davis at UNO. Sarah plans on obtaining an MD/PhD in immunology and developing therapeutics for infectious diseases. 

Kolby Brink

Kolby Brink

University of Nebraska at Omaha

I am a first year graduate student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I graduated from Boise State University with a bachelors in Kinesiology-Biomechanics and minor in Biomedical Engineering. I was an intern at the Center of Orthopedic and Biomechanical Research facility during my duration at Boise State and am now a graduate assistant in the Human Movement and Variability Lab in Nebraska. My career goal is to work for NASA developing wearable technology, researching movement science, or assisting with design requirements for the human-spacecraft interface. I have also been interested in the design and research of sport equipment and sport movement analysis as well as military biomechanical research.

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Jason Dillman

Western Nebraska Community College

Jason Dillman, a sophomore at Western Nebraska Community College, is working towards his Associate of Science and will continue his education at a 4-year college. He strives to gain experience and explore any opportunities in front of him. He is passionate about coding, space, and in his free time, video games.

Amanda Parker

Amanda Parker

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Amanda is in her first year of the Counseling Master’s program at the University of Nebraska Omaha. With the aid of the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Fellowship and supervision of faculty mentor Josie Schafer, she plans on focusing her research on how we can recruit women into STEM and retain women in STEM in Nebraska. In this role, Amanda will contribute to a review of the literature on the barriers to women in STEM career fields, she will conduct a large portion of the 50 planned interviews with women in STEM in Nebraska, and she will help analyze and report the results of this work.

Isaac Langan

Isaac Langan

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Isaac Langan is currently a third-year dental student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Isaac spends much of his time studying additive manufacturing such as stereolithography and digital light processing and their uses in the dental field. Isaac has recently focused his study on materials testing. Specifically, 3D printed materials that advertise to be effective final crown and bridge restorations. His research comes from the eventual need to produce high-quality dental prosthetics without dedicated equipment. Current methods for crown and bridge production require large specialized mills and kilns, but if 3D printed prosthetics prove to have adequate strength and longevity only a few milliliters of resin would be necessary to ensure future astronauts will have access to the dental care they will need.

Taylor Rosso

Taylor Rosso

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Taylor is a PhD student at University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the School of Biological Sciences, working under the supervision of Dr. Karrie Weber. Her research focuses on biogeochemical cycling and how microbial life interfaces with it. 

Graham Kaufman

Graham Kaufman

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Graham Kaufman is a 3rd year PhD student in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His work is performed in the Center for Electro-Optics and Functionalized Surfaces under the advisement of Dr. Craig Zuhlke. Graham's work is focused on understanding and correlating changes in surface chemistry and wettability of femtosecond laser processed metallic surfaces as they are exposed to reactive atmospheres. He uses an ultra-high vacuum surface analysis chamber connected to an ultra-high vacuum laser processing chamber via high-vacuum load lock to analyze surfaces that have been laser processed and precisely exposed to a reactive atmosphere of known gases. Under this fellowship, he will continue his work investigating changes in surface chemistry of femtosecond laser surface processed silver using both in situ and ex situ dual-pulse laser processing.

Alan Roden

Alan Roden

Creighton University

Alan Roden is a senior 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. 

Andrea Thomas

Andrea Thomas

Nebraska Indian Community College

Andrea Thomas is 47 years old with four children and three grandchildren. She works part time for JCPENNEY in Sioux City, Iowa. She is currently at Nebraska Indian Community College for her Associate of Science degree.

Jamie Good Bird

Jamie Good Bird

Nebraska Indian Community College

Jamie Good Bird is an enrolled member of the Santee Sioux Nation. Jamie is Dakota, Lakota, and Umonhon of Macy, NE. She is 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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Nicholas Mathy

Creighton University

Nick Mathy is an MD-PhD student in his final year at Creighton University School of Medicine. He previously earned his B.S. in Biology with a minor in Biological Physics from Creighton University. As part of his PhD research, he is working with Dr. Annemarie Shibata to investigate the role of long non-coding RNAs in ionizing radiation-induced neuroinflammation. Their previous work identified a long non-coding RNA in mice that regulates radiation-induced inflammation caused by microglial reactive oxygen and nitrogen species production. With the NASA Space Fellowship Grant, Nick’s translational research project will study the human ortholog, or version, of this particular mouse long non-coding RNA to determine its role in regulating inflammation and neurotoxicity in a human neuronal cell line. Further, its potential as a novel therapeutic target to reduce neuroinflammation in response to space radiation will be evaluated. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of radiation-induced neuroinflammation is critical for improving the health and safety of astronauts who are exposed to space radiation during their missions. 

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Cody Anderson

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Cody Anderson is a first-year PhD student, studying Exercise Science, at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), and works as a graduate research assistant in the Vascular Research Lab under Dr. Song-Young Park. Cody recently completed his undergraduate from UNO, majoring in Kinesiology and minoring in Biomechanics. During his time at UNO, Cody researched various topics in biomechanics and physiology including the development of passive ankle exoskeletons for individuals with peripheral artery disease (PAD), designing musculoskeletal simulations with the OpenSim software to analyze gait in PAD, among others.

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Jeffrey Brozek

Creighton University

Jeffrey Brozek is in his second year of the Physics Master’s program at Creighton University working under his advisor, Dr. Jack Gabel. His research is focused on studying quasars, specifically by developing a new test of the radiation driven Accretion Disk Wind model. He’ll be utilizing a photoionization modeling application called CLOUDY to model Broad Absorption Lines (BAL) in quasar accretion disk spectra. The physical parameters will be varied within Cloudy models to produce ionic column densities that are compared with observations and simulations of the outflows. The goal of the project itself is to bridge the gap between the Accretion Disk wind model and photoionization models.

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Kaylee Burns

Western Nebraska Community College

Kaylee Burns earned her Associate of Arts degree in May of 2021 at Western Nebraska Community College. During her time there she acquired certifications for Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint. Currently, she is enrolled as an alumni student and is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree for Information Technology, with an emphasis in Cybersecurity.

Jacob Cleveland

Jacob Cleveland

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Jacob Cleveland is a Senior studying Mathematics and Computer Engineering at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. They were awarded a Fellowship from the NASA Nebraska Space Grant last year to continue research and collaboration on space networking and startracking projects. They spent summers 2020 and 2021 working virtually as a Pathways intern for NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio with mentors Alan Hylton and Bob Short. During these rotations, Jacob studied how topology could be applied to startracking, and how tropical geometry is useful for parametric path optimization.

Stephen Haller

Stephen Haller

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Stephen Haller is an MD-PhD student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He is currently a PhD candidate in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology in the laboratory of Dr. Andrew Dudley. His research interests focus on biomechanics and matrix biology, with a particular interest in cardiovascular diseases and connective tissue disorders such as Marfan syndrome. Upon finishing his PhD, Stephen will return to medical school, after which he plans to pursue an integrated residency in vascular surgery.

Morgan Owens

Morgan Owens

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Morgan Owens is a Senior at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. She is majoring in Biological Sciences and minoring in Psychology, Mathematics, and Biochemistry. Outside of school, she is involved in the Chi Omega sorority, the UNL Honors Program, the Weber Research Laboratory, and Bryan Health volunteering. 

Melissa Holmes

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. During the summer of 2021, she was involved with the research and development of the Cold Operable Lunar Deployable Arm (COLDArm) for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The COLDArm project is a technology demonstration mission with the objective of testing the functionality of mechanisms in extreme lunar conditions. She is also an undergraduate research assistant in the Smart Materials and Robotics Laboratory at UNL. With the aid of the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Fellowship, 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.

Natalie Schwartzenberger

Natalie 

Schwartzenberger

Creighton University

Natalie is a senior at Creighton University studying Computer Science and Informatics and Theatre Arts; she has aspirations to pursue a career in software development after completing her undergraduate degree. With the the guidance and support of her faculty advisor, Natalie hopes to build virtual and augmented reality applications that assist in physics education, making physics more immersive and collaborative. Outside of research, Natalie is very involved on campus. She is a Resident Advisor, participates in Campus Ministry, and can frequently be seen on Creighton's theatrical stage performing in various productions. Natalie is very grateful and excited for the opportunity that the NASA Nebraska Fellowship has provided her!

Lauren Sherman

Lauren Sherman

Nebraska Indian Community College

Lauren Sherman is a member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska. She is currently attending school at Nebraska Indian Community College for her Associate's in Science. She wants to use her degree to become a conservation officer and work for the wildlife and parks on her reservation. She's learning about land restoration and working outdoors. This is her second year working with NASA. 

Adrianna Duarte

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.

Max Markuson DiPrince

Max Markuson DiPrince

Creighton University

Max Markuson-DiPrince is a senior attending Creighton University while simultaneously beginning his Master's Degree at Creighton University as well. He is studying both physics and sustainable energy science with a heavy emphasis on photovoltaics. After obtaining his Master's Degree, he plans on attending graduate school to obtain his PhD in condensed matter and nanomaterials physics. Through the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Fellowship, Max is working on the sustainable performance enhancement of low-cost, abundantly sourced Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSCs) by integrating glucose-derived carbonaceous nanodots within the dye-sensitizer of the device. He hopes that by boosting both cell efficiency and stability with organic materials, these devices may one day be used in long-term human spaceflight.