In the spirit of dedication to the growth of young scientists and engineers embodied by Gerald Soffen throughout his life, the Dr. Gerald A. Soffen Memorial Fund for the Advancement of Space Science Education offers Student Travel Grants. The Travel Grants are awarded to students pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees in aerospace-related sciences or engineering fields (astrobiology, astronomy, earth and space science, engineering, etc.) to attend a meeting at which they will present their research.



Please check back in early 2017 for the next application opportunity.


Students of all nationalities are welcome to apply; however, applicants must be enrolled full time in an accredited undergraduate or graduate institution of higher learning in the United States.


Two awards in the amount of $500 will be presented at the deadline, contingent upon acceptance of the recipients' conference abstracts. Recipients must be able to attend their conference using the Travel Grant and, if necessary, support from other sources; supplemental funds above the $500 award cannot be requested from the Soffen Fund. Upon receipt of the Travel Grant, recipients will be asked to:

  Acknowledge the grant in their presentations at the conference
  Submit their presentation materials to the Soffen Memorial Fund for posting on the fund's Travel Grant web page.

Notification of the award will be made approximately one month after the application deadline.


You may contact the Gerald A. Soffen Memorial Fund for the Advancement of Space Science Education regarding Travel Grants at

Jerry Soffen at the National Academy of Sciences

Individual Contributions

Steve Abrams
Joshua Alwood
Kelley Atkinson
Dr. Rob Bayt
Hans-Peter Biemann
Dr. Klaus and Vera Biemann
Dr. Baruch Blumberg and Dr. Joyce Codispoti
Randall Bostick
Jim Brice
Dr. Grant Bromhal
Charlotte Brown
Warren Brown
Laura Burns
Joshua Chamot
Jim Chase
Srimal Choi
Natacha Chough
Naomi Chow
Kristina Colladay
Eric Collins
Todd Crowley
Dr. Joseph DiRienzi
Jeremy Dobler
Edna and Karman Duchon
Kristy Dyer
Burton Edelson
Jessica Edmonds
Emily Eelkema
Robert Effinger
Bethany Ehlmann
Johnny Erickson
Richard and Susan Fienberg
Dr. Donald Flory
Carie Frantz
Bevan and Mary-Hill French
Gene Fujii

Derek and Sybil Soffen Miller
Jennifer Mindock
Dr. Michelle Minitti
Dr. Mike and Mrs. Lisa Moreau
Lev and Olga Mukhina
Ken Murphy
Gerry and Marcia Neugebauer
Dr. Leslie E. Orgel
Dr. Claire Parkinson
Julia Plummer
William Pomerantz
Edwin and Margaret Prior
Changmei Ql
Matthew Reyes
Gregory Richardson
Brian Roberts
Deanne Rogers
Ian Ruiz
Michael and Jane Sander
Dorthy Zukor

Melinda Gallo
Stephen Garber
Jerry Gomez and Susan Wetstone
Paul Gosling
Daniel Greenspan
Watson and Margarita Gregg
Dr. Jose Guzman
Christina Hammock
Vicki and Russell Harvey
Dr. Richard Henry and Dr. Rita Mahon
Dr. Noel and Diana Hinners
Andrew Hoppin
Dr. Norman Horowitz
Aleta Johnson
Kathryn Johnson
David Kalman
Nora Kelly
Nader Khatib
Caroline Kostak
Elizabeth Knasel
David Lamb
Rivers Lamb
Jennifer Law
Arnaldo Leon
Julie Litzenberger
Dr. Adam London
Matthew and Carmen Lowry
Sara MacLellan
Charles Mackenzie
Dr. Stephen Maran
Rebecca Martin
Timothy Marzullo
Mark and Renee Matossian
Christopher May
Danielle Merfeld
David Schuman
Robin Smullen
Kazuko Soffen
Marvin and Phyllis Soffen
Courtney Springirth
Rich Sturmfels
Theodore Swanson
David W. Thompson
Jane Thorpe
Dr. James E. Tillman
Nicole Vennell
Graylan Vincent
Dr. Christine Wehlburg
Jennifer White
Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides
Danielle Wood
Dr. and Mrs. Yasumi Yugari

Alex Mundahl, a senior undergraduate in Aerospace Engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, is a Spring 2016 Travel Grant recipient.
Alex presented a talk about his research on "Linear Burn Rates of Monopropellants for Multi-Mode Propulsion” at the AIAA Propulsion and Energy Conference in July 2016. Alex has demonstrated creativity, work ethic and leadership as a member of the university’s aerodynamics and propulsion team. These traits also support his research on propulsion, through which he seeks to inspire the next generation. The conference was Alex’s first.
Caleb Wheeler, a graduate student in Astrophysics at Arizona State University, is a Spring 2016 Travel Grant recipient.
Caleb attended the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers: Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation conference In June 2016 to present a talk on his research "Efficient Receiver Tuning Using Differential Evolution Strategies”. Caleb developed a first-of-its-kind Terahertz detector array to expand the field of Terahertz astrophysical observations. His unique dual skill set in hardware and software development greatly contributed to the success of his work.
Vaughn Petersen, an undergraduate double major in Physics and Applied Mathematics at the University of the Pacific, is a Fall 2015 Travel Grant recipient.
Vaughn presented his poster “Modeling the SED of LLAGNs” at the 227th American Astronomical Society Meeting. On a largely volunteer basis, Vaughn learned his research topic and coding techniques to be able to significantly contribute to his research project. This was Vaughn’s first conference.
Maria Charisi, a graduate student in Astronomy at Columbia University, is a Fall 2015 Travel Grant recipient.
Maria presented her poster “Catalog of Isolated Emission Episodes in Gamma-Ray Bursts from Fermi, Swift and BATSE” at the Sixth International Fermi Symposium. Maria has successfully tackled a variety of astrophysics topics in her graduate school career while remaining dedicated to her involvement in STEM outreach activities.
Anthony Coleman, an undergraduate student in Biochemistry at Oakland University, is a Spring 2015 Travel Grant recipient.
Anthony attended his first conference, the Astrobiology Science Conference in June 2015, where he presented his talk, "Building a Large Phylogeny of Archea". Motivated by his interest in space exploration, Anthony remains dedicated to his research pursuits even as he takes classes and works outside the university.
Nicholas D'Amore, a graduate student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland, is a Spring 2015 Travel Grant recipient.
Nicholas attended the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation to present a talk on his work, "IMU-based Manipulator Kinematic Identification". Nicholas sports a perfect academic record, and grew his childhood fascination with spacecraft design into involvement in aerospace-related engineering throughout college and graduate school.
Haylee Archer, an undergraduate student in Physics at the University of North Dakota, is a Fall 2014 Travel Grant recipient.
Haylee attended her first major conference - the 225th American Astronomical Society Meeting in Seattle - to present her poster on "The Alignment of Red-Sequence Dwarf Galaxies". Haylee's motivation to study space was born at an early age, and she has not only been proactive in pushing forward her research but in her involvement with public outreach activities.
Jessica McBeck, an graduate student in Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is a Fall 2014 Travel Grant recipient.
Jessica presented a poster on "Using CRISM and THEMIS to Characterize High Thermal Inertia Terrains in the Northern Hellas Region of Mars" at the Fall American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Jessica has a diverse research background bridging earth and space sciences, yet has excelled in each of her research pursuits. She has been involved with community outreach activities during her entire graduate career and her teaching skills make her an in-demand teaching assistant.
Eve Vavagiakis, an undergraduate student in Physics with an Astronomy Concentration at Cornell University, is a Spring 2014 Travel Grant recipient.
Eve presented her poster, "A Miniature Cryogenic Scanning Fabry-Perot Interferometer for Mid-IR to Submm Astronomical Observations" [PDF of Eve's poster (1.3 Mb)] at the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation Conference in June 2014. Eve's essay describing the rewards of research, her strongly supportive letter and her amazing research accomplishments indicate she is poised for success as she pursues graduate studies at Caltech.
Brandon Cook, a graduate student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati, is a Spring 2014 Travel Grant recipient.
Brandon attended the 53rd AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting in Florida to present his work, "UAS Collision Avoidance, Navigation, and Target Assignment in a Congested Airspace Using Fuzzy Logic". Brandon's essay described the birth of his interest in space as a youth, and he maintained a consistent involvement in research and a stellar GPA all while competing as a varsity track and field athlete.
Whitney Lohmeyer, a graduate student in Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a Fall 2013 Travel Grant recipient.
Whitney presented an invited plenary keynote talk [PDF of Whitney's slides (3.5 Mb)] discussing her work on the effects of the space environment on satellites in geostationary orbits at the European Space Weather Week Conference in Antwerp, Belgium. Whitney has been consistently involved with aerospace research since her early undergraduate career, and complements her graduate research pursuits with a nearly perfect GPA.
Rachel Harris, an undergraduate student in Biology and Russian Language at Wellesley College, is a Fall 2013 Travel Grant recipient.
Rachel presented a poster [PDF of Rachel's poster (13.5 Mb)] on the production and preservation of biomarkers in acidic environments, with astrobiological relevance to Earth and Mars, at the Fall 2013 American Geophysical Union Meeting in San Francisco, CA. Rachel contributed to the work as an Astrobiology Intern at Ames Research Center, one of the many successful research opportunities she pursued during her undergraduate career.
Jennika Greer, an undergraduate student in Astronomy and Geology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is a Spring 2013 Travel Grant recipient.
Jennika presented a poster on her work determining the radiometric age of some of the oldest sedimentary rocks on Earth at the 2013 Goldschmidt Conference in Florence, Italy. Jennika possesses a strong research record, and was praised for her nearly singular academic and research abilities and accomplishments. The meeting served as Jennika's first professional conference.
Masaki Kakoi, an graduate student in Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University, is a Spring 2013 Travel Grant recipient.
Masaki presented a talk [PDF of Masaki's slides (1.3 Mb)]on his work in the use of Earth's L1 and L2 libration points to access Mars at the 64th International Astronautical Congress in Beijing, China. Masaki won praise for his persistence in an unique path through graduate school, and his service to freshman engineering students in an intense mentorship program at Purdue.
Marie McBride, an undergraduate student in Solar, Earth and Planetary Science at the Florida Institute of Technology, is a Fall 2012 Travel Grant recipient.
Marie presented a poster [PDF of Marie's poster (2.0 Mb)] on her work restoring and calibrating the Apollo dust detector dataset at the Fall 2012 American Geophysical Union Meeting in San Francisco, CA. In addition to presenting her poster, Marie participated on a panel, which included Apollo 17 astronaut Dr. Harrison Schmitt, discussing the use of Apollo data 40 years after its collection. Marie began her research as an intern at Goddard's Lunar and Planetary Science Academy in 2011, and served as a Mars Science Laboratory operations intern at JPL in 2012.
Matthew Route, an graduate student in Astronomy and Astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University, is a Fall 2012 Travel Grant recipient.
Matthew presented a poster [PDF of Matthew's poster (1.1 Mb)] on his work seeking radio emissions produced by magnetic fields in brown dwarfs in a poster at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in January, 2013. This was his first presentation at a professional conference. Matthew's exciting research efforts are complemented by a rich history of education and public outreach activities.
Jay Kroll, an undergraduate student in Chemistry at Emory University, is a Spring 2012 Travel Grant recipient.
Jay presented a talk [PDF of Jay's slides (3.2 Mb)] on his work related to laboratory spectroscopic characterization of complex organic molecules that may be present in the interstellar medium at the Ohio State University International Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy in June 2012. Jay has been involved with research his entire undergraduate career and has participated in all aspects of research, from proposal writing to instrumentation construction to data analysis. The conference represented his first, first-author professional presentation.
Caitlin Nolby, a graduate student in Space Sciences at the University of North Dakota, is a Spring 2012 Travel Grant recipient.
Caitlin presented her poster [PDF of Caitlin's poster (1.2 Mb)] on the development, teaching and refinement of an introductory observational astronomy class for high school students at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's "Communicating Science" Conference in August 2012. Caitlin has a long-lived interest in space, and wrote a wonderful essay that captured her desire to turn her own interests into inspiration and educational opportunities for other students. The conference represented her first professional presentation.
Jessica Blagen, is a graduate student in Space Sciences at the University of North Dakota.
Jessica presented her research into potential linkages between the Gefion family of asteroids and the L-chondrite family of meteorites in a poster [PDF of Jessica's poster (0.8 Mb)] at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in March 2012. Jessica recently focused her diverse talents (degrees in geology and film studies, a dedicated volunteer at the Mauna Kea Observatories Visitor Information Station) on planetary science, fulfilling a life-long interest in the field.
Rebecca Jensen-Clem, is an undergraduate student in Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Rebecca presented her work on the development of a new adaptive optics sensor, which involved both numerical simulations and hands-on laboratory work, in a talk [PDF of Rebecca's slides (7.9 Mb)] at the IEEE Aerospace Conference in March, 2012. Rebecca has been consistently involved in space-related activities throughout college and was supported by a stellar letter from her Space Grant advisor at JPL.
Lourdes Medina, is graduate student in Industrial Engineering at Pennsylvania State University.
Lourdes presented her talk [PDF of Lourdes's talk (1.6 Mb)] entitled "A Review of Design for X Methods for Medical Devices: The Introduction of a Design for FDA Approach" at the ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conference in August 2011. Lourdes, who has a spotless academic record, chose to focus on medical device design for her Ph.D. because it fed her desire to conduct research that contributes to the betterment of society.
Thomas Catanach, is an undergraduate student in Physics at the University of Notre Dame.
Thomas is the recipient of the American Pioneer Ventures Travel Grant. Thomas presented a poster [PDF of Thomas's poster (0.9 Mb)] entitled "Atmospheric Effects on Muon Flux at Project GRAND" and a talk [PDF of Thomas's slides (5.0 Mb)] entitled "Periodic Variations in Muon Flux at Project GRAND" at the International Cosmic Ray Conference in August 2011 detailing his research using a Notre Dame-based cosmic ray detector. Thomas has been involved in astrophysics research since high school and anticipates that the conference will help him determine which field of astrophysics he will focus on in graduate school.

Erin Kara, is an undergraduate student in Physics at the Barnard College. .
Soffen Fund Travel Grant. Erin presented her poster [PDF of Erin's talk (1.4 Mb)] entitled "Blazar Counterparts for Low-Latitude Unidentified Sources: 1FGL J2015.7+3708 and 1FGL 2027.6+3335" at the Fermi Symposium in May 2011. Blazars are a specific type of active galactic nuclei which are uniquely visible with the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Erin has been consistently involved in astrophysics research throughout her undergraduate career and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in astrophysics.
Jarret Lafleur, is a Ph.D. student in Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech.
Jarret presented his talk [PDF of Jarret's talk (2.5 Mb)] entitled "Probabilistic AHP and TOPSIS for Multi-Attribute Decision-Making under Uncertainty" at the IEEE Aerospace Conference in March 2011. His work uses probabilistic methods to improve and facilitate the decision-making process early in complex projects, when uncertainty is high. Jarret penned a philosophical application essay, has an outstanding academic record and a long-standing record of participation in space-related research. .
Valerie Klavans, is an undergraduate student in Astronomy at the University of Maryland.
Valerie presented her talk [PDF of Valerie's talk (2.0 Mb)] entitled "Analysis of High Resolution Laboratory Propane Spectra (v21, 922 cm-1) and the Interpretation of Titan's Infrared Spectra" at the International Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy in June 2010. Valerie has been continuously involved in promoting astronomy and space science at her school through campus organizations and various conferences. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in Planetary Astronomy with NASA.
Geoffrey Wawrzyniak, is a Ph.D. candidate in Astrodynamics and Space Applications at Purdue University.
Geoff presented his talk [PDF of Geoff's talk (0.9 Mb)] entitled "Creating Solar Sail Trajectories Using Boundary Value Problem Solvers" at the Second International Symposium on Solar Sailing in July 2010. Geoff's background in astrodynamics has led him to pursue doctoral research work on the generation and control of solar sail orbits in the Earth-Moon system. He hopes to "continue the human adventure into space" by means of solar sailing.

Courtney King, is an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona.
Courtney presented her poster [JPEG of Courtney's poster (3.2 Mb)] entitled "Determining the Metal/Silicate Partition Coefficient of Germanium: Implications for Core and Mantle Differentiation" at the Lunar and Planetary Science meeting in March 2010.
Jeff Bowman, is a graduate student at the University of Washington.
Jeff presented a poster [PDF of Jeff's poster (3.6 Mb)] on his research entitled "Elevated bacterial abundance in laboratory-grown and naturally occurring frost flowers under late winter conditions" at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in December 2009.
Sarah Miller, is an undergraduate in materials science and engineering at Washington State University.
Sarah presented her talk [PDF of Sarah's talk (2.7 Mb PDF)] entitled "Effect of substrate composition on whisker formation in Sn films" at the Materials Science and Technology 2009 conference in October. Motivated by her long-standing interest in space, Sarah has conducted research since her freshman year of college and is a leader of the WSU branch of Material Advantage, a national materials science student group.
Nishant Agarwal, is a PhD candidate in Astronomy and Space Sciences at Cornell University.
Nishant presented [PDF of Nishant's presentation (530 Kb)] his research, entitled "Cosmological Constraints on General, Single-Field Inflation," at the American Physical Society meeting in April 2009. This research seeks to aid the development of a physical model of the expansion of the universe which agrees with theory, while being based on observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background and the large-scale structure of the universe. In addition to being one of the top graduate students in his department, according to his advisor Rachel Bean, "…he is already working, in terms of competence and independence, at the level of a senior graduate student despite only being half way through his graduate career." Not only is Nishant an outstanding researcher and student, but he is also active in engaging undergraduates and teenagers in astronomy education, and has already given talks at a number of conferences and seminars.
Paul Richardson, is an undergraduate at the University of Washington in Earth and Space Sciences with a minor in Applied Mathematics.
Paul was a participant in the USRP at Goddard Space Flight Center conducting research under Dr. Jacob Bleacher. He presented [PDF of Paul's presentation (17.7 Mb)] his research entitled "Small Volcanic Features on Olympus Mons in the Tharsis Region, Mars" at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in March 2009. This research uses hi-res images from Mars Odyssey's THEMIS and Mars Express's HRSC to catalog small volcanic vents and improve the understanding of the geological history of the Tharsis region. Paul has been an undergraduate research assistant on a number of projects at UW, a teaching assistant in two courses, and is a member of many professional clubs and societies in his field. His PI at Goddard described him as an outstanding intern based on both his progress so far and his ability to see the implications of this research on the global scale.
Emily Tenenbaum, is a graduate student in physical chemistry at the University of Arizona.
Emily, who studies the chemistry of stars using observational radio astronomy, presented [PDF version of Emily's presentation (1.2 Mb PDF)] her discovery of two P-bearing molecules around two different types of stars at the International Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy in June of 2008. The discovery of P-bearing molecules in circumstellar space is important for understanding the development of life, as P is a crucial element in the building blocks of life.
Erin Beck, is a senior in physics at Washington University in St. Louis.
Erin, the project manager and mission planning lead of a team of 60 students designing and building a flight-ready satellite for the Air Force Research Laboratory's University Nanosatellite competition, attended the Small Satellite Systems and Services "4S" Symposium in May 2008. She not only presented [PDF version of Erin's poster (2.8 Mb PDF)] her team's progress but also carried out her responsibilities for the overall meeting as a member of the meeting's technical committee.
A 2006 awardee, Madeline Leong, is a first--year M.D./Ph.D. student at Duke University.
Madeline enthusiastically wrote about how her experience leading her Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunity Program team redefined her perspectives on medicine and sparked a fascination with space research. She presented [PDF version of Madeline's poster (1.9 Mb PDF)] the results of her team's study on the influence of gravitational stress on immunity at the National MD-PhD Student Conference in July of 2007.
A 2006 awardee, John Janeski, is a senior at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.
John participated in the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunity Program where his team demonstrated electrostatic orbits between two charged spheres. John presented [PDF version of John's presentation (7.4 Mb PDF)] the results of their experiment at the American Association of Physics Teachers meeting in January 2007 in hopes of providing physics teachers with a unique and exciting way to teach basic principles of physics in their classrooms.
A 2005 awardee, Matthew Gadja, is a second year graduate student in engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Matthew presented a talk on the design of "A Lunar Volatiles Miner" [PDF version of Matthew's presentation (1.1 Mb PDF)] at the International Conference on Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Challenging Environments in Houston, Texas in March of 2006. Matt has a longstanding interest in space and was a high-performing engineering physics major as an undergrad while lettering as a member of the University of Wisconsin football team.
A 2005 awardee, Nicole Jordan, is a second year graduate student in the Aeronautics and Astronautics/Technology and Policy program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Nicole presented a talk on the "Development and Validation of a Multidisciplinary Spacesuit Model" [PDF version of Nicole's presentation (8.4 Mb PDF)] at the 44th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting in Reno in January of 2006. Nicole has extensive experience in spacesuit research and an impressive academic record.
A 2004 awardee, David Harmon, was a senior double major in computer science and mathematics at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
David attended the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics: Computation Science and Engineering conference in February of 2005. He presented the work he did as a summer intern at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Maestro, a software package used to control the Mars Exploration Rovers during surface operations [PDF version of David's poster (3 Mb)]. David's application was noteworthy for its outstanding letter of support from his computer science department chair, who also had served as his professor in numerous courses. Awarding a Travel Grant to David marks the second year in a row the Soffen Fund was able to provide support to a student at a small college outside the mainstream of NASA university activities.
A 2004 awardee, Amber Straughn, was a second year graduate student in physics and astronomy at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.
Amber attended the American Astronomical Society's meeting in January of 2005 to present her research on characterization of "Tadpole Galaxies in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field" Dataset [PDF version of Amber's poster (4.2 Mb PDF)]. Amber's application stood out not only for its glowing letter of support from her advisor, but by her enthusiastic essay.
The 2003 awardee, Philip A. Ashley, was a sophomore studying Physical Science at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.
Philip presented his work on "Measurement of Diatomic Oxygen in the Exhaust Plume of a Mini-Hybrid Rocket" [PDF version of Philip's poster (463 Kb PDF)] at the American Chemical Society's 227th National Meeting in Anaheim, California.
The 2002 awardee, Kristen Bethke, was a senior studying Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey.
Kristen presented her work on "Revolutionary Concepts for Human Outer Planet Exploration (HOPE)" [PDF version of Kristen's presentation (3.2 Mb PDF)] at the Space Technology and Applications International Forum in Albuquerque, New Mexico on February 3rd, 2003. Kristen presented slides 14-26 of the presentation.