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Students 2023-2024

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 2022-2023 profiles, click here.




University of Nebraska at Omaha

Alli Grunkemeyer is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomechanics at UNO. While my department is interested in studying human movement variability, I build on that concept with my personal interest in researching forms of perception of objects, including tools and devices, in pathological populations and varying environments such as zero-gravity.




University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Ethan is a PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics. He is a research assistant in the Smart Materials and Robotics Lab at UNL where his current research focuses on developing gallium-based liquid metal composites for use in flexible electronics and wearable health monitoring devices.




University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Nick is a second-year graduate research assistant at the University of Nebraska Lincoln's Applied Mechanisms and Design Lab, studying the topic of variable stiffness actuators and hybrid robotic locomotion systems. Under a NASA NE Mini-Grant and now this Fellowship, he and Dr. Carl Nelson have been studying variable stiffness actuators and their potential to reduce the power consumption of semi-active robotic locomotion systems.




Nebraska Indian Community College

Andrea is currently attending the Nebraska Indian Community College pursing a degree in General Science Studies and is expected to graduate in Spring 2024. She wants to participate in NASA Fellowship program because the research projects NICC is 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.




College of Saint Mary

Kaitlin is a third-year student at the College of Saint Mary in Omaha. She is majoring in Biology and Psychology with a minor in Chemistry. Kaitlin is also a Marie Curie Scholar, the president of the Student Athlete Leadership Team (SALT), a member of Student Senate and a midfielder on the Varsity Soccer team. She plans to attend medical school after her undergraduate degrees with a focus in emergency medicine. Kaitlin has a passion for women pursuing science careers and enjoys human anatomy, robotics and service to others.




University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Katie is a junior geology student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  She is a returning NASA fellow and is excited to start her research project.  The goal for her research project is to determine if there is a possible connection between ancient life on Earth and the minerals within the rocks they are found in (helping determine environment). Then, after obtaining a possible connection, she plans on interviewing an expert from NASA about the mineralogy of other planets and the places they are searching for signs of alien life. She then hopes to see if there is a connection between the minerals here on Earth and the minerals on other planets, and if there is a similarity in whether life existed there.




University of Nebraska at Omaha

Kelsey is a PhD candidate at the University of Nebraska Omaha studying Industrial Organizational Psychology. She currently studies under Dr. William Kramer where her research focuses on team communication and team performance. She is currently working with Dr. Samuel Hunter at the National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Center (NCITE). Kelsey previously completed two graduate internships at NASA's Langley Research Center going organizational development work. With the aid of the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Fellowship, she will continue to study how teams communicate, what impacts team communication, and how team communication may impact team performance.




University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Kasey is a first-year Ph.D student of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at UNL in May 2023. Before coming to UNL, he taught STEM to gifted K-12 students and served in rapid prototyping citizen science efforts for the better part of a decade. He conducts undergraduate research in the Smart Materials and Robotics Laboratory with the goal of supporting the future technical needs of NASA’s interplanetary exploration missions. Kasey advances his passion for mentorship and engineering education by designing and teaching hands-on workshops for K-12 students in flexible, wearable circuit design.




Nebraska Indian Community College

Jiah Marks, Sr., a husband and proud father of 3, is pursuing an associate degree in business at Nebraska Indian Community College.  I am currently working on the Environmental Monitoring Through Native Prairie Restoration research project which focuses on a variety of environmental monitoring methods that assess environmental conditions.  My research utilizes soil and plant composition data, Land Cover Monitoring System (LCMS), Globe Observer and drone GIS data to compare current data with weather station data over time. This project will provide information about how local environments are reacting to changing conditions like climate change. Documenting and understanding these environmental changes are crucial for our future adaptation. With NASA’s lead, I hope to add to their greater body of knowledge that will help our local communities, as well as NASA’s greater mission. 




Chadron State College

Creighton is an incoming senior at Chadron State College. She is on the pre-medicine track and is majoring in Chemistry with minors in Human Biology and Nutrition. Her research is focused on improving the solubility and bioavailability of curcumin with black pepper. Curcumin is the compound in the traditional spice turmeric that gives it its yellow color. Curcumin has great potential for being a medical treatment as it has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties. However, curcumin has very low solubility within the human body, so it is very hard to get the compound into cells for treatment. Piperine, which is the main component of black pepper, has been hypothesized to help improve curcumin solubility. Creighton's research will examine whether adding different concentrations of piperine seems to improve curcumin solubility in samples similar to human plasma. As a future healthcare provider, Creighton is very interested in finding more cost-efficient, effective, and natural treatments with less adverse side effects for patients.




Nebraska Indian Community College

Catherine Morris is a student at Nebraska Indian Community College and is pursuing a degree in Business Administration and Nation Building. The NASA fellowship program will help her study the environment both locally and globally, which will allow her to continue helping her people and the world around them by studying the environment and climate change.




University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Rachael is a biomedical engineering PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research interests include space technology and surgical robotics. She graduated with a bachelor's from UNL in 2018 and worked at Virtual Incision in Lincoln, NE before pursuing graduate education.


Rachel Cushing

College of Saint Mary

Rachel is a fourth-year student at College of Saint Mary. She is majoring in Biology with minors in Psychology and Forensic Science. Rachel is also the libero on the volleyball team, president of the Student Athlete Leadership team, an Honors Program member, among other groups at CSM. Rachel hopes to attend a PA program following graduation and advance her research experience.  




University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Carson is a masters student studying Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics with a specialization in Fluid Mechanics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He previously received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His current research involves developing microfluidics for cellular mechanobiological studies using 3D printing. The goal of his project is to develop a microfluidic cell stimulator to study the effects of mechanical stimuli on osteocytes, a key bone cell for sensing mechanical stimuli.




University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Spencer is a PhD student studying Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He previously received a B.S. in Bioengineering at the University of California, Riverside. His current research involves creating a new manufacturing framework for 3D printing liquid metal embedded elastomer composites (LMEE). The goal of his project under the NASA NE Space Grant Fellowship is to develop materials for improving space suit thermal management systems using LMEEs.




Nebraska Indian Community College

Cree is an ambitious student pursuing an Associate in Applied Science at Nebraska Indian Community College. This fall, they will conduct a research project at the Santee campus to compare weather data with biological markers stemming from the native prairie restoration project. Passionate about blending traditional knowledge with modern science, Cree aims to further their educational journey by pursuing a Bachelor's in Indigenous Environmental Science. Their commitment to community and environmental stewardship represents the innovative and culturally rich perspectives they bring to their academic and professional pursuits.




Western Nebraska Community College

Isaac was born and raised in Longmont, Colorado and currently lives in Loveland, Colorado. He is in his second year of the Computer Science associate degree at Western Nebraska Community College. He has a flair for problem-solving and is passionate about developing and implementing codes. Constantly eager to learn and adapt, he is always excited to explore new programming languages and technologies. In his free time, Isaac enjoys programming and experimenting with robotics and spending time cooking. With a vision to make a positive impact on the world through technology, Isaac is set to embark on an exciting career in the tech industry.




University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Kate is a senior Chemical Engineering major with minors in Economics and Mathematics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is from Rosemount, Minnesota. During the summer of 2023, she spent her time as a Process Engineering Intern for Fluid Quip Technologies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. There, she worked on various engineering design projects surrounding the optimization of co-products such as corn oil and protein in ethanol plants. Kate is involved in student leadership on campus as she is the President of the Engineering Student Advisory Board this year. She is also the Membership Chair and an active member of the Chem-E-Car team for the Lincoln Student Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. On campus, she works as a Teaching Assistant for Chemical Engineering I course and a Research Assistant studying textile-based supercapacitors in Dr. Mona Bavarian’s lab. 




Chadron State College

Peter is in his fourth year at Chadron State College. He is a biology and chemistry major and is hoping to go into the medical field, specifically pediatrics. Peter has been on the Dean’s or President’s List every semester he has attended CSC and received the Rising Sophomore Award for Excellence in the pre-med field. He is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado and attended Rocky Mountain High School. Peter plays football for CSC and has played in every single football game since the fall of 2020 and received Second Team All-Conference honors as a tight end in 2023. His research involves using saliva to assess the hydration level of an individual. The project will involve comparing the changes in saliva samples before and after a workout to the changes observed from more traditional methods of determining hydration levels.




University of Nebraska at Omaha

Chris is a fourth 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 Prosthetic Simulators" for his M.S. He assists with research under Dr. Jorge Zuniga developing 3D printed prosthetic and assistive devices. His dissertation focuses on the modeling of brain activity using Dynamic Causal Modeling which allows for the description of how one brain region exerts influence on another brain region. This information allows for the creation of "road-maps" of brain activity and can be used to further understand how individuals process motor commands, and how these processes can be altered by perturbations, such as limb loss. With the NASA Space Fellowship Grant, Chris intends to use Dynamic Causal Modeling to describe the connectivity between motor regions of the brain during imagined and performed movements. In this investigation, he hopes to describe how the brain's activity is altered between imagined and executed movements to set a baseline for healthy neural activity, which can be used for contrast for future studies.  




Western Nebraska Community College

Augustus Allred is a student and baseball player at Western Nebraska Community College. He is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and an honoree of the President’s List at WNCC. He’s working toward an associate degree in computer science and IT, and he plans to pursue his bachelor’s degree after the 2023-2024 school year.




University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Jayden is a mechanical engineering graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a first-year graduate student pursuing a PhD in engineering with a specialization in materials at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  He is a graduate assistant working under Dr. Li Tan. His current research focuses on studying the effects of shock waves on the properties of various polymers.




University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Jordyn is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in Forensic Science with minors in Chemistry and Art History and Criticism. She is an undergraduate student researcher in the lab of Dr. Barry Chin Li Cheung. With Dr. Cheung and a graduate student mentor, her research is focused on the use of plasma-activated water with different concentrations of macro- and micro-nutrient ions for growing microgreens in a hydroponic setup.




University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Lucas is a junior undergraduate student pursuing a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and currently works as an undergraduate researcher for Dr. Sangjin Ryu in the UNL BioFlow Lab. His research involves developing a foldable and inflatable device which can expand through liquid injection inspired by insect wings. Through the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Fellowship, he hopes to develop a successful device which can be effectively used for space exploration purposes. 




Creighton University

Thomas is a physics and mathematics major in his junior year at Creighton University. Thomas is working to develop computer simulations of quasar accretion disks that will be observed by the upcoming Vera Rubin Observatory. These simulations will generate predictions of these future observations and will test standard accretion disk models. Thomas’ interest in space sciences began with a passion for backyard astronomy in his hometown of Fayetteville, AR. After graduation, he aspires to pursue a research career in astrophysics.   




Creighton University

Nicholas is a junior at Creighton University. He is majoring in Chemistry and Physics with a minor math. His current work is with Dr. Joel F. Destino's, Ph.D., and he is studying how particle size, particle surface chemistry, continuous phase solvent formulation, and polymeric binders affect inks used to 3D-print glass via direct ink write (DIW). Developing new, chemical approaches for the fabrication of glass materials is central to enabling Through this research, he hopes to aid in the manufacturing and formulation process of DIW, 3D-printed glass to produce a higher yield and optimize the 3D-printing process.




University of Nebraska at Omaha

Kaitlin is a PhD student in the Department of Biomechanics at the University of Nebraska Omaha. She is conducting research in motor development, which has previously included research into the impacts of isolation and of tool usage. Her current project involves analyzing the impacts of training on functional brain networks in pediatric participants to see where connections between different regions may change over time. This information may be used by NASA in the future to monitor the health of astronauts on longer spaceflights and to intervene before changes in the nervous system might negatively impact task performances. Kaitlin hopes to continue her research into motor control and to share her knowledge as a faculty member in the future.




University of Nebraska at Omaha

Cal is an undergraduate student at UNO. His career goal is to earn a PhD in mathematics and become a professor of mathematics while working on math research.  His project is in the field of algebraic number theory. The question it addresses concerns the construction of Galois extensions with Galois group of order p^n and special ramification properties. He will be working with a family of groups G of order p^n with nilpotency class n-1, which we will call generalized Heisenberg p-groups and denote by H(p,n).  His current research project seeks to describe generalized Heisenberg groups with order p^n where p is prime, denoted as H(p,n) and classify these H(p,n) groups as Galois groups over fields of characteristic p.  This classification will describe the actions each group generator has on each part of the field.




Nebraska Indian Community College

Shelley is currently affiliated with Nebraska Indian Community College as a student and heavily involved with research opportunities offered by the college.  She grew up on a farm just east of the Santee Sioux Reservation at Crofton Nebraska.  It was there that she gained a great appreciation of the environment around her by becoming more self-sufficient.  Gardening and properly caring for the land and environment was instilled at a very young age.  Shelley watched as the destruction of our natural wetlands and land systems became the product of an unsustainable monoculture system. She became part of NICC to help find solutions.  It is within Shelley's goals to help remediate the environmental ills that have been imposed upon our planet.  As a lifelong gardener and caregiver to the land, Shelley appreciates the gifts of Mother Nature and strives to learn and share her knowledge with others to help combat the challenges among our systems.  Soil and soil health is one of her greatest passions.  Growing up not far from the Santee area, Shelley remains deeply connected to environments that surround the area. She seeks to find lasting sustainable solutions to existing challenges. Healthy, balanced soil systems create healthy ecological systems, communities, and people.




Nebraska Indian Community College

Kristina Dolezal, general science student, began her program at NICC during the fall term of 2022. She is excited to be seeking her education and changing her life long-term for herself and her children.  Kristina’s goals are to work in the natural resources field and pursuing hands-on learning opportunities to expand her understanding of the industry and find a space where she can earn and learn as she develops her career path.  Her project focus is on environmental monitoring of native prairie restoration and Missouri River disturbance research.

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