Awardee Description of Research

A Spring 2016 awardee, Alex Mundal, is a senior undergraduate in Aerospace Engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

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.

A Spring 2016 awardee, Caleb Wheeler, is a graduate student in Astrophysics at Arizona State University.

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.

A Fall 2015 awardee, Vaughn Petersen, is an undergraduate double major in Physics and Applied Mathematics at the University of the Pacific.

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.

A Fall 2015 awardee, Maria Charisi, is a graduate student in Astronomy at Columbia University.

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.

A Spring 2015 awardee, Anthony Coleman, is an undergraduate student in Biochemistry at Oakland University.

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.

A Spring 2015 awardee, Nicholas D'Amore, is a graduate student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland.

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.

A Fall 2014 awardee, Haylee Archer, is an undergraduate student in Physics at the University of North Dakota.

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.

A Fall 2014 awardee, Jessica McBeck, is a graduate student in Geosciences at the University of Massachutsetts, Amherst.

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.

A Spring 2014 awardee, Eve Vavagiakis, is an undergraduate student in Physics with an Astronomy Concentration at Cornell University.

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.

A Spring 2014 awardee, Brandon Cook, is a graduate student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati.

Brandon attended the 53rd AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting in Florida in January 2015 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.

A Fall 2013 awardee, Whitney Lohmeyer, is a graduate student in Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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.

A Fall 2013 awardee, Rachel Harris, is an undergraduate student in Biology and Russian Language at Wellesley College.

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.

An April 2013 awardee, Jennika Greer, is an undergraduate student in Astronomy and Geology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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.

An April 2013 awardee, Masaki Kakoi, is a graduate student in Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University.

Masaki presented a talk on his research 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.

An October 2012 awardee, Marie McBride, is an undergraduate student in Solar, Earth and Planetary Science at the Florida Institute of Technology.

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.

An October 2012 awardee, Matthew Route, is a graduate student in Astronomy and Astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University.

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.

An April 2012 awardee, Jay Kroll, is an undergraduate student in Chemistry at Emory University.

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.

An April 2012 awardee, Caitlin Nolby, is a graduate student in Space Sciences at the University of North Dakota.

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

An October 2011 awardee, 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.

An October 2011 awardee, 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 talk (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.

An April 2011 awardee, 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.

An April 2011 awardee, 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.

An October 2010 awardee, Erin Kara, is an undergraduate student in Physics at the Barnard College.

Erin is the recipient of the American Pioneer Ventures Travel Grant, the first sponsored 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.

An October 2010 awardee, 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.

An April 2010 awardee, 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.

An April 2010 awardee, 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.

An October 2009 awardee, 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.

An October 2009 awardee, 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.

The April 2009 awardee, 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.

An October 2008 awardee, 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.

An October 2008 awardee, 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.

An April 2008 awardee, 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.

An April 2008 awardee, 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.