June 2, 2022 | Lee Cannon

Above: Logan Selph, a 2022-23 Undergraduate Research Scholar, stands next to a telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

NC Space Grant is excited to announce the recipients of the 2022-23 Undergraduate Research Scholarships and Graduate Research Fellowships. Joining the NC Space Grant family from universities across the state, these students will be involved in research spanning different science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) studies relating to aerospace and aviation fields. These students will participate in pertinent research as they work toward future scientific and technological breakthroughs.  

“We are excited to support another class of impressive young researchers as they embark on their projects,” says Jobi Cook, associate director for NC Space Grant. “It is a joy to be a part of their promising STEM journeys. We proudly congratulate every scholar and fellow on this accomplishment.”

Undergraduate Research Scholars will receive the unique experience of conducting basic or applied research in aerospace-related disciplines. Students will lay the groundwork to potentially translate their STEM disciplines into careers in space science, as they forge relationships with mentors from their universities and others in the NASA and aerospace community. 

The Graduate Research Fellows –hailing from fields of study ranging from astrophysics, plant biology, and chemistry to physiology and mechanical engineering– will explore a full spectrum of research topics, from probing planetary origins and evolution, to testing fluid artificial muscle bundles for musculoskeletal rehabilitation of astronauts, to utilizing a handheld sunphotometer for validation of satellite-measured aerosol optical depth. 

Undergraduate Research Scholars

The NC Space Grant Undergraduate Research Scholars for 2022-23 are:

Ethan Barber, Appalachian State University, Major: Physics, Minor: Mathematics, Project: Atmospheric Aerosol Hygroscopicity and CCN Number Concentrations Affect on Climate Model Uncertainty Used to Predict Future Temperatures

Abigail Dunnigan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Major: Astrophysics,   Project: Connecting Nearest Neighbors to Star Formation and Black Holes in Galaxies

Taylor Johnson, Winston-Salem State University, Major: Biology, Project: A Performance Comparison of Microgreens and Long-Term Crops in Partial Gravities and Regolith Media for Simulation of Martian, Lunar, and ISS Scenarios via Root Exudate, Phytohormonal, and Growth Rate Analyses as a Means of Understanding Plant Reactions

Caleb Keaveney, North Carolina State University, Major: Meteorology, Minor: Applied Mathematics, Project: Modeling the Longevity of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Using the EPIC Model

​​Michael Keohane, Duke University, Major: Electrical and Computer Engineering, Minor: Computer Science, Project: Skynet Multi-Wavelength Integration

​​Stephen Lail, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Major: Geology, Project: Phosphorus Availability in Seawater Under Different Oxygen Conditions

Errolette Roache, Winston Salem State University, Major: Biology, Minor: Chemistry, Project: Priming Seeds With Sodium Perchlorate-Eating Bacteria

Logan Selph, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Major: Physics, Project: Using Gravitational Wave Optical Counterparts to Confirm Hubble’s Constant

Sydney Wharton, Winston Salem State University, Major: Biology, Project: Hydroponics Transferability

Abigail Wucherer, North Carolina State University, Major: Mechanical Engineering, Minor: Entrepreneurship, Project:

​​Evan Yee, Duke University, Major: Biomedical Engineering, Project: The Effect Space Radiation and Microgravity on Cardiomyocyte Mitochondrial Function

Graduate Research Fellows

The NC Space Grant Graduate Research Fellows for 2022-23 are:

Matthew Allen, Appalachian State University, Major: Engineering Physics, Project: Newest-generation Handheld Sunphotometer for Validation of Satellite-Measured Aerosol Optical Depth and Air Quality Studies by Citizen Scientists

Samuel DeMay, Appalachian State University, Major: Engineering Physics, Project: Characterizing a Near-IR Spectrometer and Automating the Harvard-SAO Electron Beam Ion Trap for Laboratory Astrophysics

Ian Eldridge-Allegra, Duke University, Major: Mechanical Engineering, Project: Transonic Buffet: Reynolds Number and Wind Tunnel Wall Effects

Ryan Lynch, North Carolina State University, Major: Mechanical Engineering, Project: Helical Screw Drive Propulsion Testing Rig and Terrain Identification Neural Network

Nicholas Mazzoleni, North Carolina State University, Major: Mechanical Engineering, Project: Hardware-in-the-Loop Testing of Fluidic Artificial Muscle Bundles for Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation of Astronauts Affected by Microgravity

Reilly Milburn, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Majors: Physics and Astronomy, Project: Probing Planet Evolution Through Exoplanet Exosphere Detection

Amanda Smythers, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Major: Analytical Chemistry, Project: TardiAMPs: Leveraging the Unique Physiology of Tardigrades for the Identification and Characterization of Novel Antimicrobial Peptides

Pa Chia Thao, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Majors: Physics and Astronomy, Project: Planetary Origins: Probing the Atmosphere of a 17 Million Year Old Hot Jupiter

Aurora Toennisson, North Carolina State University, Major: Plant Biology, Project: Investigating Plant-Growth Promotion and Strigolactone Signaling with Spaceflight-Isolated Rhizobacteria

Cullen Walsh, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Major: Physical Chemistry, Project: The Effects of Structure and Thickness on the Charge Carrier Dynamics of Nanoscale Layered Semiconductors Useful in Solar Energy Conversion and Hydrogen Fuel Production

Mackenna Wood, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Majors: Physics and Astronomy, Project: A Study of the Carina – Columba Young Stellar Complex

To explore projects NC Space Grant-supported students have researched in the past, read about the previous class of Undergraduate Scholars and Graduate Fellows here.

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