Graduate Students

PSGC Graduate Research Fellowship Program at Penn State – University Park

The Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium will award one-year fellowships in the amount of $5,000 per academic year to outstanding students that promote graduate study leading to masters or doctoral degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related to NASA research and development.

Fellowships will be awarded to outstanding students in fields of study that promote the understanding, assessment, and utilization of space and contribute to NASA’s research mission: Aeronautics Research, Exploration Systems, Science, and Space Operations. To learn more about NASA research priorities, please visit the following research programs: Earth Science, Space Science, Biological and Physical Research, Aerospace Technology, and Space Flight. The main NASA Mission Directorate page can be found here.

Now accepting applications for the 2017-2018 academic year. Click HERE to apply!


What are the qualifications and considerations?

  • All eligible Penn State- University Park graduate students are invited to apply, with award emphasis on, but not limited to, the following colleges:  Agricultural Sciences, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Eberly College of Science, Education, Engineering, Health and Human Development, Information Sciences and Technology, and Liberal Arts.
  • Applicant must be a U.S. citizen.
  • Applicant must be admitted to Penn State’s Graduate School.
  • Applicant must be enrolled as a full-time student (9 credits).
  • In keeping with the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program goals, fellows will participate in mentoring or education outreach activities (for grades K-12, undergraduates or the general public) for a minimum of ten hours per semester.

How do I apply?

  • Submit an online application HERE by the March 1, 2017 deadline. (NOTE: on 2/15/17 we extended the deadline to 3/1/17)
  • All supporting materials (i.e. letters of recommendation, resume, transcripts, etc.) must be included in order for your application to be considered complete.

Meet our 2016-2017 Graduate Fellows

2016-2017 Academic Year

Kathryn Bateman- Curriculum and Instruction: Science Education
Kate Bowen- Nutritional Sciences
Chloe Callahan-Flintoft- Psychology
Zena Cardman- Geosciences
Ross Dinsmore- Electrical Engineering
Will Doebler- Acoustics
Erica Frankel- Chemistry
Alison Franklin- Soil Science & Biogeochemistry
Chrysta Ghent- Curriculum and Instruction
Chester Harman- Geosciences
Brian Knisely- Mechanical Engineering
Lillie Langlois- Wildlife and Fisheries Science
Kelly Malone- Physics
Jamie Peeler- Geography
Michael Rodruck- Astrophysics
Julie Sanchez- Climatology
Curtis Stimpson- Mechanical Engineering
Stanley Stupski- Biology
Anand Swaminathan- Acoustics
Jennifer Thweatt- Biochemistry, Microbiology and Molecular Biology; Astrobiology

Kate Bowen
Kate’s research focuses on the effects of dietary monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and their derivatives on established and emerging risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Kate is currently conducting a multisite, double-blind, randomized, crossover, controlled-feeding study to investigate the effects of three dietary oils with varied fatty acid compositions on intermediate CVD risk factors such as: body composition, endothelial function, lipid profile (total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides), apolipoproteins, gene expression, fecal microbiota, and others. Kate’s research supports the NASA Mission Directorate of Human Exploration and Operations. Specifically, her work best aligns with the cardiovascular-based projects conducted within NASA’s Human Research Program to support human space travel. CVD is the leading cause of death in the United States and globally, and is of particular interest in astronauts. Evidence suggests extended spaceflight and exposure to reduced gravity environments can have adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. Developing a better understanding of the relationship between fatty acid intake and CVD pathogenesis and prevention on Earth has implications for human adaptation and nutritional requirements in space. Incorporation of favorable dietary fatty acids into the limited food system may be a potential strategy to counteract or attenuate the effects of spaceflight on the cardiovascular system. Investigation of nutritional interventions is necessary to optimize astronaut health during missions and, ultimately, prevent lifelong cardiovascular consequences from space exploration.
Will Doebler
Will is conducting research pertaining to civilian supersonic transportation and atmospheric turbulence effects on sonic booms under the direction of Dr. Vic Sparrow. When aircraft travel faster than the speed of sound, a shock wave is generated known as a sonic boom which has traditionally been perceived as very loud and annoying. As a result, aircraft are prohibited from generating these noisy sonic booms while flying over land. This is one reason that civilian aircraft fly at subsonic speeds today even though there is demand for rapid transportation. Aircraft manufacturers as well as the federal government are designing supersonic aircraft with less annoying sonic booms. NASA, the FAA, and many international partners are working together to develop criteria for certifying that these new “low boom” supersonic aircraft are sufficiently quiet to avoid community annoyance. It is difficult to decide when a boom is quiet enough because of the effects of nonlinear propagation and turbulence on the sonic boom pressure signature. Because of these effects, sonic booms sound different at different locations. Will is working on evaluating metrics that both model human perception accurately and also are not significantly affected by turbulence. This research may help policy makers decide if an aircraft’s sonic boom is quiet enough for community acceptance. Will is also working on methods for “deturbing” or removing the effects of turbulence from sonic boom measurements. This work may help increase confidence in sonic boom measurements for certifying supersonic aircraft.
Alison Franklin
Alison’s research focuses on the ecological and health implications of reusing wastewater effluent for the purpose of irrigating agricultural lands and utilizing soil as a tertiary treatment for effluent. Specifically, Alison is studying the presence and effects of emerging contaminants, like pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), that are commonly found at low concentrations in treated wastewater effluent and, subsequently, released into the environment. While overt toxicity is not a concern, the presence of PPCPs in the environment is cause for concern, since the long-term health implications of low-level exposures are unknown. The study site for Alison’s research is The Living Filter at Penn State where the treated effluent from Penn State’s wastewater treatment plant is spray-irrigated on cropped, grassed, and forested lands. This site has been in full-scale operation for over 20 years. As a long-term wastewater reuse site, studying the Living Filter offers insight into the possibility of continuously reusing wastewater within the same system, which applies to not only Earth systems as water resources become limited, but also the reuse of water on space missions, space stations, or other closed systems where wastewater reuse would be a necessity. While WWTP processes and many man-made filtering processes do an adequate job of removing typical wastewater contaminants, many of these processes do not remove emerging contaminants like PPCPs. This work will provide information about the suitability of tertiary treatment of effluent in soil to provide improved protection of human, animal, and ecological health as well as increase sustainability on Earth as well as space-based systems. Alison’s work supports two NASA Mission Directorates: Human Exploration and Operations and Science Technology.
Chester Harman
Sonny's research focuses on better understanding the atmospheric evolution of terrestrial planets, with an eye towards answering one of NASA's long-standing questions: how did the solar system evolve to its current diverse state? Using a photochemical model of the early Earth, he recently explored the range of outcomes for an Earth-like planet orbiting different types of stars. This work highlighted a potential false positive mechanism for oxygen accumulation among planets orbiting small stars, which are prime targets for near-future characterization. Given that oxygen is one of the best indicators for the presence of photosynthetic life on other worlds, a photochemical source for free oxygen would mean that future detection missions would have to include a way to distinguish the source of the oxygen. Currently, Sonny is exploring the processes that contributed to Venus' current state. Venus could have been much like the Earth very early in its history, but at some point, lost what water might have been present on its surface. How much water there might have been, when in Venus' history it was lost, and how quickly it was lost are all outstanding questions at this time. Answering them will help us better understand how planets like the Earth evolve under different conditions.
Brian Knisely
Brian’s research focus is in gas turbines for aircraft propulsion and power generation, with the goal of increasing overall engine efficiency through improved turbine blade cooling designs. Utilizing the research turbine rig housed in the Steady Thermal Aero Research Turbine (START) Laboratory at the Pennsylvania State University, he is evaluating the cooling effectiveness of state-of-the-art, advanced cooling technologies for turbine blades relative to a baseline, cooled blade. Spatially-resolved blade temperatures are determined using long wave infrared measurements while the blades are spinning at 10,000 rpm. In particular, the effects of rotation, Reynolds number, and Mach number on cooling effectiveness are being investigated. Improvements in airfoil cooling designs would allow for higher turbine temperatures resulting in increased engine efficiency and substantial fuel savings.
Kelly Malone
Kelly’s research is grounded in the field of particle astrophysics, focusing on TeV gamma rays. These particles are believed to be associated with charged cosmic rays, the origins of which are one of the open questions in the field. However, unlike cosmic rays, gamma rays are uncharged, do not bend in Galactic magnetic fields on their journey to Earth, and therefore point back to their sources (which include supernova explosions, gamma-ray bursts, and active galactic nuclei), making them easier to study. Kelly is a member of the High Altitude Water Cherenkov Observatory (HAWC) Collaboration, which is currently using data from an array of 300 water Cherenkov tanks located on a mountain in Mexico to map the entire overhead sky in gamma rays. This research falls under the Astrophysics sub-heading of the Science Mission Directorate of NASA and is especially relevant because HAWC is a higher-energy counterpart to the Fermi Large Area Telescope, which is a NASA experiment.
Lillie Langlois
Lillie’s research examines landscape changes associated with Marcellus shale gas development in Pennsylvania forests. The north-central region encompasses the state’s largest block of continuous forest and is of regional significance as a source population for forest-dependent wildlife. The rapid expansion of shale gas development in this area results in direct loss of habitat at well sites, pipelines, and service roads; however the resulting habitat fragmentation surrounding these areas may be of greater importance. This project will quantify the industry’s spatial footprint and resulting forest fragmentation, predict future changes, and evaluate the effectiveness of best management practices. This research directly aligns with the NASA Earth Science Program and addresses the overarching scientific goal of the Carbon Cycle and Ecosystem (CC&E) Focus Area to detect and predict changes in Earth’s ecosystems including land cover. Lillie’s research addresses relevant yet unstudied issues concerning the siting and development of this rapidly growing and important energy industry. The results will inform stakeholders and policies to guide future development that reduce surface disturbance and forest fragmentation.
Michael Rodruck
Michael’s research follows colliding and merging galaxies. When these massive objects interact with each other, they can form bridges and streams of galactic material. Known as tidal tails, these regions contain hydrogen gas and stars pulled from the host galaxies; at the same time, tidal tails house ideal conditions for star cluster formation. These star clusters do not live long in tails before they are disrupted, and their stars dispersed into the surrounding diffuse material. Michael studies these tidal tails to look for surviving star clusters and to search the underlying diffuse tidal tails for the old stars, formed in the host galaxies, and the new stars, formed in the tidal tails. These results will feed back to dynamical simulations of galaxy interactions and bootstrap the final conditions that should be expected for the enrichment of the intergalactic medium. Michael’s research supports the Astrophysics category of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. By providing observational constraints to galactic formation models, we can further our knowledge of galaxy formation, and answer the question, “How did we get here?"

Past Graduate Fellows

2015-2016 Academic Year

Valerie Alstadt – Chemistry
Zena Cardman – Geosciences
Feon Cheng – Nutritional Sciences
Lea Hagen – Astronomy and Astrophysics
Lucas Harris – Geography
Joseph Keller – Ecology
Amanda Labrado – Geosciences
Regina Wilpiszeski – Geosciences/Astrobiology

2014-2016 Academic Years

Yolian Amaro-Rivera – Electrical Engineering
Joanna Bridge – Astronomy and Astrophysics
Taran Esplin – Astronomy and Astrophysics
Brian Pomerantz – Astronomy and Astrophysics

2013-2015 Academic Years

Brittany Banik – Bioengineering
Timothy Brubaker – Electrical Engineering
Jase Bernhardt – Geography
Gloria Kim – Bioengineering
Elliot Nelson – Physics
Merisa Nisic – Cell and Developmental Biology
Caroline Normile – Meteorology
Laura Rodriguez – Geoscience
Christina Sponsky – Nutritional Sciences
Adrienne Tucker – Geography
Benjamin Zinszer – Psychology

2012-2014 Academic Years

Sean Cahoon – Ecology
Michele Crowl – Science Education
Meredith Hanlon – Plant Biology
Khadouja Harouaka – Geoscience/Astobiology
Ramdane Harouaka – Bioengineering
Neal Parsons – Aerospace Engineering
Aliana Briston – Ecology
Ryan Terrien – Astronomy & Astrophysics
Rachel Worth – Astronomy & Astrophysics
Amanda Young – Geography

2011-2013 Academic Years

Raechel Bianchetti – Geography
Drew Clausen – Astronomy & Astrophysics
Christopher Dancy – IST
Nathan Garvin – Physiology
Rachel Isaacs – Geography
Peter Licona – Curriculum & Instruction
Keegan McCoy – Electrical Engineering and Astronomy & Astrophysics
Amanda Mills – Electrical Engineering
Matthew Route – Astronomy & Astrophysics
Christopher Stevens – Psychology
John Swierk – Chemistry
Brian Wallace – Aerospace Engineering

2010-2012 Academic Years

Matthew Geske – Physics
Heather Graham – Geosciences & Biogeochemistry
Daniel Jones – Geosciences
Diane Kristine Korzow – Biology
Allen Kummer – Electrical Engineering
Michael Lapsley – Engineering Science
Kerry Michael – Biobehavioral Health
Laura Russo – Ecology
Jennifer Rygel – Materials Science & Engineering

2009-2011 Academic Years

Tyler Anderson, Physics, College of Science
Michael Castellano, Soil Science, College of Agricultural Sciences
Johnathan Cook, Physiology, College of Health and Human Development
Stephen Krajeski, C&I/Science Education, College of Science
Rebecca McCauley, Geosciences/Astrobiology, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Brendan Mullen, Astronomy, College of Science
Leighton Myers, Aerospace, College of Engineering
Benjamin Smith, Chemistry, College of Science
Gregory Tudryn, Materials Science, College of Science

2008-2010 Academic Years

Alicia Castagna, Materials Science, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
David Claudio, Industrial Engineering, College of Engineering
Jacob Haqq-Misra, Meteorology, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Kristina Harris, Nutritional Sciences, College of Health and Human Development
Michael Hernandez, Meteorology, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Steve Kerlin, Geosciences and Biogeochemistry, College of Education
Paul Lynch, Industrial Engineering, College of Engineering
Kevin Mueller, Ecology, College of Agricultural Sciences
John Petrilli, Engineering Science, College of Engineering
Stephen Redman, Astronomy, College of Science
James Saal, Materials Science, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Jason Young, Astronomy, College of Science

2007-2009 Academic Years

Karen Bussard, Pathobiology, College of Agricultural Sciences
Timothy Gookin, Plant Biology, IDGP/College of Science
Francelys Medina, Materials Science, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Sarah Pabian, Wildlife and Fisheries Science, College of Agricultural Sciences
Jori Sharda, Plant Biology, IDGP/College of Agricultural Sciences
Laurie Shuman, Biology, IDGP/College of Science
Christopher Thode, Chemistry, College of Science

2006-2008 Academic Years

Stacey Dean, Chemistry, College of Science
Timothy Fischer, Geosciences, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
John Florian, Human Physiology, IDGP/College of Health and Human Development
Jacob Haqq-Misra, Meteorology, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Ameila Henry, Ecology and Plant Physiology, IDGP/College of Science
Kimberly Kermann, Astronomy, College of Science
Angela Luis, Ecology, IDGP/College of Agricultural Sciences
Avram Mandell, Astronomy, College of Science
Eliza Montgomery, Materials Engineering, College of Engineering
Jessica Moon, Ecology, IDGP/College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
David Morris, Astronomy, College of Science
Sarah Nilson, Ecology and Plant Physiology, IDGP/College of Science
Patrick O'Connor, Chemistry, College of Science
Jonathan Petters, Meteorology, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Stephen Redman, Astronomy, College of Science
Samuel Ridout, Physiology, IDGP/College of Health and Human Development
Brian Schratz, Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering


Other Graduate Fellowship Opportunities