North Carolina Space Grant provides a variety of scholarship, research and internship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. The students listed on this page will provide live presentations during the 2021 NC Space Symposium, with the videos added after the event. The menu at right provides links to pre-recorded talks and posters by additional students who received NC Space Grant funding in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
NIA/NASA Internship Award at Langley Research Center – Summer 2020
NC State University Graduate Student – Ph.D. , Aerospace Engineering
Comparison of 3D vs 2D High-Speed Digital Image Correlation for Guided Wavefield Reconstruction for Quantifying Structural Damage
This project concerns the development of a tool for non-contact quantification of subsurface structural damage using an integrated high-speed stereo-camera system. As the use of composite materials becomes more popular for aircraft and spacecraft, a sensing paradigm capable of quantifying barely visible impact damage quickly, effectively, and in-situ is necessary. To satisfy this demand, a high-speed stereo-digital image correlation system is proposed that enables the remote and instantaneous capture of full-field displacement information. By capturing and reconstructing guided waves as they propagate on the surface of a structure, hidden information about any subsurface damage present is revealed through the interaction of the wave with damage boundaries. Phase-based damage imaging algorithms are used to extract this hidden information and form a damage “map.” A thin high-density polyethylene plate with a mass attached to the back to simulate damage was used to demonstrate the capabilities of the system. All of the experimental parameters were carefully selected, and significant work was done to overcome current hardware limitations of state-of-the-art high-speed cameras. Sample interleaving and averaging were used to artificially increase frame rate and reduce noise respectively. For the single-camera 2D-DIC case, image stitching was needed to artificially increase the field of view, which left artifacts in the damage image due to slight misalignment between samples. The implementation of two high-speed cameras for stereo-digital image correlation enables the full-field sampling of both in-plane and out-of-plane components of wavefield displacement. Because the out-of-plane displacement is typically much larger than other wave modes, the stereo-setup required less resolution and enabled the capture of a larger field-of-view without the need for image stitching. This produced a significantly clearer damage image with no significant image artifacts. Future work is also discussed, including plans to apply the system to higher modulus aerospace materials and develop more advanced imaging algorithms.
Faculty Advisor: Fuh-Gwo Yuan
NASA Internship Award at Marshall Space Flight Center – Spring 2021
Winston-Salem State University
Recent Graduate (December 2020), Exercise Science
Investigating the Performance Characteristics of Auxetic Foams in Neuropathy Treatment
The focus of my research studies the vast effects peripheral neuropathy has on the human gait cycle, as well as the investigation of various materials that can be utilized in aiding those individuals. Peripheral neuropathy results from damage to nerves in the upper and lower extremities, causing the victim to experience limited mobility. Many different attributes contribute to peripheral neuropathy, such as diabetes, alcoholism, chemotherapy/radiation, athletes, individuals suffering from severe injuries, and astronauts returning from space. The symptoms associated with neuropathy include numbness, a burning tingling sensation, extreme sensitivity, and increased difficulty walking. The purpose of this study is to compare the ground reaction forces and gait cycles of various neuropathic victims, utilizing motion capture via NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center’s Virtual Environment’s Laboratory (VEL), and force plate technology. The obtained data demonstrates the point that endures the most force during the human gait cycle, comparing each attribute to neuropathy respectively. These feasible conclusions will not only aid victims of limited mobility, but astronauts returning from space. The data obtained from testing will help develop innovative material that will not only aid in neuropathy treatment, but other critical garments utilized by astronauts during deep space exploration.
Advisor: LaBreesha B. Batey, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
2020-2021 NC Space Grant Graduate Research Fellow
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduate Student (Ph.D.), Physics and Astronomy
Variations on an Eclipse: Evryscope Searches for Circumbinary Planets
Over the past three decades, more than 4,300 exoplanets have been discovered. Approximately 4% of these exoplanets are in binary systems. While many surveys search for planets orbiting single stars, estimates indicate most stars exist in binary or multiple systems, making the search for circumbinary planets a compelling subject for exploration. In eclipsing binary systems, small differences in the time taken for stars to eclipse each other, called eclipse timing variations (ETVs), can indicate the presence of a circumbinary exoplanet not easily detectable by other means. Continuous everyday coverage is ideal for measuring eclipse times accurately, and multi-year observations are necessary to provide enough eclipses for identifying long-period planet candidates. Fewer than two dozen planets have been discovered using ETVs, so many potential discoveries may remain to be made in this parameter space. Evryscope-South, deployed to CTIO in 2016, consists of two dozen small telescopes in a single dome, arranged for coverage of the entire sky. With its multi-year data set, its time precision, and its sky coverage, the Evryscope is uniquely suited for an all-sky survey in search of long-period planet candidates using ETVs. Using a new algorithm with the binary system AA Dor as a test subject, we are able to measure ETVs to within 14 seconds, and recover the results of previous work showing no signs of ETVs for that system. Here, we present highlights from our survey of a sample of eclipsing binaries in the Evryscope data set.
Faculty Advisor: Nicholas Law
2020-2021 NC Space Grant Undergraduate Research Scholar
Winston-Salem State University
Undergraduate Student (Senior), Biology
Applied plant science for crop yield assessment in Lunar regolith
Future space colonists will require a reliable source of food that will not demand time-consuming management. To increase the reliability and efficacy of ISRU In-situ resource utilization systems in regolith-based agriculture on the Lunar surface, the authors isolated and classified rhizosphere microorganisms from successful earth-based plant-microbe associations in an attempt to create ‘microbial recipes’ to be used in the Lunar regolith. Two crops were chosen, Soybean – Glycine max (L.) Merr., for its protein content and rapid growth, and Lettuce – Lactuca sativa L., for its water content and vast datasets already in place for space crop. Three microbial isolates were used (Azospirillum sp. (A); Rhizobium sp. (R); Pseudomonas sp. (P)) totaling 4 possible combinations (AR; AP; RP; ARP). The recipes were inoculated in agar gel cubes and placed in the sterile Lunar regolith. Crops were evaluated on their seed viability and germination rate, growth rate; photosynthetic rate; stomatal conductance, and transpiration over a period of 90 days. Each crop had an n=40 with their appropriate controls. The crops were also evaluated for their phytohormonal content using LC-MS quantification for Auxin and Cytokinin and for specific root exudates. All treatments displayed better biomass yield and photosynthetic performance when compared to their controls (ANOVA – p<0.05). ARP crops showed the best results overall when compared to AR, AP, and RP crops (ANOVA – p<0.01). ARP crops also showed fewer signs of stress based on stomatal conductance and transpiration levels , as wells as a lower concentration of stress hormones. Overall, the utilization of microbial recipes in association with Lunar regolith has proven to be a feasible approach to not only lower the risks of crop loss but also to improve the yield of some cultivars.
Faculty Advisor: Rafael Loureiro
NASA Internship Award at Goddard Space Flight Center – Summer 2020
Undergraduate Student (Senior), Computer Science
Data Management and dissemination for research scanning polarimeter
I will be presenting the work I did in summer 2020. The project was entitled data management and dissemination for the research scanning polarimeter. I was a software engineer in charge of designing a website and data pipelining structure for NASA’s remote sensing technology. Though the internship was remote, the project is based out of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Advisor: Michael Hendrickson, Andrzej Wasilewski, Goddard Institute for Space Flight Studies
NASA DEVELOP Internship Award – Summer 2020
North Carolina State University
Graduate Student (Masters), Geographical Information Systems
Mapping Forest Composition and Health in the Southern Appalachians Using NASA Earth Observations to Enhance Drought and Watershed Health-Related Forest Management for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) owns and manages more than 55,000 acres of land in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. Most of these lands reside within the Oconaluftee River watershed. In this region and watershed, hemlock trees are a culturally significant foundation species that contribute to habitat biodiversity, regulate temperature and evapotranspiration of riparian environments, and provide economic value for tourism and recreation. The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), an invasive insect, has caused widespread hemlock mortality in recent decades, raising concerns about hemlock decline. Hemlock mortality leads to standing dead trees and increased evapotranspiration which can abet the spread of wildfires, especially during periods of drought. The DEVELOP team used satellite imagery from Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM) to quantify and map possible hemlock decline by comparing changes in the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) values of winter season between 2003 and 2010. The project utilized the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) along with imagery from Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) to create a weighted suitability analysis that maps topographic and environmental conditions favorable for hemlock habitat. This study found that 67% of evergreen and mixed forest cover in the Oconaluftee exhibited a decrease in winter NDVI from 2003 to 2010. Additionally, the two example weighted suitability analysis showed 4.5-9.5% of hemlock suitable land in 2018 in the Oconaluftee. The partners of this project can use the outputs to identify extent of potential hemlock decline in the Oconaluftee and establish benchmark metrics for assessing changes in hemlock suitable areas over time.
Advisor: Andrew Shannon (NASA/NOAA)
2020-2021 NC Space Grant Graduate Research Fellow
Appalachian State University
Graduate Student (Masters), Engineering Physics
Automation of Optical Tweezers in Laser Tweezer Raman Spectroscopy Apparatus
The Biophysics and Optical Sciences Facility (BiyOSef) at Appalachian State University maintains a custom-built and partially automated laser tweezers Raman spectroscopy (LTRS) apparatus using custom LabVIEW software. LTRS incorporates Raman spectroscopy and optical tweezers into a single apparatus and is both a method used to improve the resolution of collected Raman spectra and to collect Raman spectra of micro- to nano- sized samples. As part of a continued effort toward complete automation of the LTRS apparatus, the steering lens responsible for the alignment and movement of the optical tweezers laser has been automated. Once trapped in place, the automated lens makes micro-level adjustments to optimize the Raman beam. Automation of the optical tweezers component has been essential for fine-tuning data collection and contributing to a fully automated LTRS system.
Faculty Advisor: Jennifer Burris