Published: April 6, 2020

National Science Foundation logoThe National Science Foundation has awarded six prestigious Graduate Research Fellowships to University of Colorado Boulder aerospace students, paving the way for them to continue their innovative and impactful research on campus.

The awards recognize outstanding graduate students from across the country in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The six aerospace winners are among 26 students from majors across campus receiving the awards, as well as 31 additional students who earned Honorable Mentions. Each recipient will receive a $34,000 annual stipend for the next three years as well as professional development opportunities.

2020 CU Boulder Honorees

Kristen Bruchko

Advisor: Natasha Bosanac
Lab: Bosanac Research Group

Throughout my time at CU Boulder, I will be researching a new approach to constructing trajectories in multi-body systems using roadmap generation and dynamical systems theory. Designing a feasible and efficient trajectory in a chaotic environment is a complex process that is time-consuming for a human, requires an adequate initial guess, and expert knowledge of the environment. I plan to incorporate roadmap generation techniques to solve the path planning problem to autonomously choose the trajectory path and dynamical systems theory to summarize the total solution space. By combining these approaches, I will develop a more efficient method that requires less human interaction and will address common challenges in mission planning. By the end of my graduate studies, my goal is to develop a new approach that will support mission planning in cislunar and deep space via autonomous trajectory design. Ultimately, I want to help expand the capabilities of space exploration by enabling advanced missions to complex destinations.

Adam Herrmann

Advisor: Hanspeter Schaub
Lab: Autonomous Vehicle Systems (AVS) Laboratory

My PhD research focuses on solving the spacecraft operations scheduling problem using both classical optimization techniques and reinforcement learning to enable spacecraft autonomy in the Earth-observing and small-body domains. I am particularly interested in bridging the gap between these two fields, exploring the trades between the two in solving complex spacecraft planning problems. Furthermore, I am interested in how these computationally intensive planning algorithms can be implemented onboard spacecraft. How do you balance computational complexity with plan robustness in uncertain environments? Can you fly a high-fidelity dynamics simulator onboard to help solve these problems? In addition to optimal spacecraft planning, I am also interested in studying how supervised learning techniques can be applied onboard spacecraft to better predict resource usage during spacecraft plan execution, reducing constraint violations and replanning efforts.

Jaylon McGhee

Advisor. John Farnsworth
Lab: Experimental Aerodynamics Laboratory

My research is focused on analyzing the unsteady aerodynamics associated with cycloidally rotating airfoils (CRA), which are commonly found in vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs). This research includes carrying out a progressive experimental study of an isolated CRA to better characterize complex flow phenomena, such as dynamic stall. Upon completion of the experimental phase, I will focus upon developing a theoretical model of the observed behaviors in pursuit of applying this knowledge to enhance renewable energy systems such as VAWTs or wave energy converters.


Anna Montgomery

Advisor: Marcus Holzinger
Lab: Vision, Autonomy, and Decision Research Lab (VADeR)

During my time as a graduate student at CU Boulder I plan to research methods of reachable set computation. Specifically, I am interested in developing techniques to improve the speed, versatility, and accuracy of the current sample-based method for computing reachability subspace surfaces. Reachable sets allow an end-user to determine the optimal final states of a dynamical system given the initial set of states, a feasible control input, and a time horizon. The advancements I have proposed will simultaneously improve reachability surface accuracy and bring computation closer to real-time. While this research will allow for improved decision-making across a wide swath of fields, I hope to emphasize aerospace applications such as rendezvous, proximity operations, and docking. Ultimately, my goal for this research is to develop methods for computing reachable sets that can be used to transfer the task of decision-making from humans to autonomous systems.

Esther Putman

Advisor: Torin Clark
Lab: Bioastronautics Laboratory

My current research investigates whether the application of galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) in training scenarios can improve vestibular performance. We are exploring if the use of GVS may be implemented to enhance small motion perception and overall performance in functional mobility and manual control tasks for pilots and astronauts. GVS may have benefits for individuals on Earth as well, improving balance and performance, for example, in elderly individuals who otherwise may be at a higher risk for falls. I hope to utilize my research in Bioastronautics at CU Boulder to support human spaceflight for long-duration exploration missions, working to combine the fields of engineering and medicine to create comprehensive solutions for the unique environment of space. I am also passionate about translating the research and work we do in the space industry to benefit life on Earth and look forward to continuing this research during my graduate studies.

Amanda Steckel

Advisor: Xinzhao Chu
Lab: Chu Research Group