NASA Grants Support Academic Collaborations for STEM Student Success

NASA has awarded $3.9 million to 13 teams at under-resourced academic institutions across the country, to support collaborative projects with NASA that offer students mentorship and career development in science, technology, engineering, and math.

This is the second round of seed funding awards given through the agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Bridge Program, which was established in 2022 to improve diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the science and engineering communities, as well as NASA’s workforce.

“We are thrilled to welcome 13 new teams into our community,” said Padi Boyd, director, SMD Bridge Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We look forward to nurturing these collaborations between faculty and NASA researchers, while supporting the development of the next generation of researchers.”

NASA’s SMD Bridge Program funds research projects at academic institutions — including Hispanic-serving institutions, historically Black colleges and universities, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions, and primarily undergraduate institutions — that build or strengthen relationships with NASA. The projects offer hands-on training and mentorship for students that will help them transition into graduate schools, employment at NASA, or STEM careers.

In February, the program awarded a first round of seed funding to 11 teams. This second cohort of grant recipients includes 13 teams with projects connected to seven NASA centers. A third round of seed funding will be awarded this summer.

The following projects were selected as the second cohort to receive seed funding:

“Bubble Trapping and Ullage Formation in an Acoustic Field”

Principal investigator: Kevin Crosby, Carthage College

This project, a collaboration between Carthage College and NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, will offer undergraduate students hands-on activities and training related to microgravity fluids and liquid propellant transfer, as well as the opportunity to work with high-school and middle-school students at under-resourced schools.

“Expanding Heliophysics Scientific Discovery Through HelioAnalytics”

Principal investigator: M. Chantale Damas, Queensborough Community College

This project continues a collaboration between Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to engage students in research that emphasizes the use of computer science, machine learning, and statistics to expand the discovery potential of heliophysics data, models, and simulations.

“Enhancing Ice Cloud Retrieval Through Multitask Machine Learning”

Principal investigator: Leah Ding, American University

This collaboration between American University in Washington and NASA Goddard will develop machine learning techniques for analyzing satellite data to retrieve information about ice clouds, with interdisciplinary research and mentorship opportunities for students.

“Analysis of Abiotic/Primordial Peptides With Noncanonical Amino Acids”

Principal investigator: Jay Forsythe, College of Charleston

Student research and internship experiences through this project, a collaboration between the College of Charleston and NASA Goddard, will investigate how amino acid diversity affects chemical analysis, in support of research into the origins of life.

“Facilitating Undergraduate Research Through the Development of Novel Gravity Gradiometers”

Principal investigator: Charles Hoyle, Humboldt State University Sponsored Programs Foundation

This collaboration between Cal Poly Humboldt and NASA Goddard will support students with training, mentorship, and research in the development of novel gravity gradiometers for Earth science and fundamental physics investigations.

“Supporting Opportunities for Cooperative Climate Education and Research at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (SOCCER @ FDLTCC)”

Principal investigator: Carl Lemke Oliver Sack, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

This project will strengthen relationships between Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, local tribal agencies, NASA Goddard, and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, to support students with mentorship and training in snow research, including how to accurately observe snow throughout the season in various landscapes.

“Bridging NASA and Cal State LA Partnerships for Research Capacity Building in Remote Sensing”

Principal investigator: Jingjing Li, California State University, Los Angeles

California State University, Los Angeles will collaborate with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California in this project to strengthen research capacity and student mentorship and training opportunities in the field of remote sensing, including applications for pre- and post-wildfire analysis.

“Fusion of Lidar 3D Vegetation Structure Measurements and a Terrestrial Biosphere Model for Improved Predictions of Current and Future Land Carbon Dynamics”

Principal investigator: Wenge Ni-Meister, Hunter College

This collaboration, a project between Hunter College of the City University of New York and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, will offer student training as it aims to link lidar remote sensing of vegetation with modeling to improve our understanding of Earth’s ecosystem change.

“Assessment and Development of Surface Coatings for Multifunctional Shape Memory Alloys (SMAs)”

Principal investigator: Josiah Owusu-Danquah, Cleveland State University

This multidisciplinary project with Cleveland State University and NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland will advance student research and education in the field of advanced materials, focusing on surface coating materials that satisfy requirements for space systems and structures.

“Student Construction and Deployment of Low-Cost Sensor Network in Whittier, California”

Principal investigator: Peter Peterson, Whittier College

This project, a collaboration with Whittier College and NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, focuses on hands-on learning for students in the use of low-cost sensors and satellite-based measurements to study regional air pollution.

“High-Density Capacitive Energy Storage Using Multi-Layered Polymer-2D Nanofillers Heterostructure for Space Application”

Principal investigator: Nihar Pradhan, Jackson State University

This collaborative project between Jackson State University and NASA JPL will offer undergraduate and high school students research and training opportunities in the field of next-generation polymer-nanocomposites for energy storage.

“Astrobiology Scholars Program Immersive Research Experience (ASPIRE)”

Principal investigator: Andro Rios, San Jose State University Research Foundation

This project, a collaboration between Skyline College, San Jose State University, and NASA Ames, will give students an opportunity to conduct research that contributes to two pillars of astrobiology: origins of life and exobiology.

“Fire & Air: Burning Issues in the Central Valley: Unraveling Fire’s Influence on Air Quality, Fuel Mapping, and Carbon Dynamics”

Principal investigator: Wing To, California State University, Stanislaus

This collaboration between California State University, Stanislaus and NASA Ames will offer a multi-tiered mentorship and research program for students, as well as a year-long undergraduate program, to study ground-based air quality and wildfire fuel mapping.

Learn more about the SMD Bridge Program at:

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