Published: July 9, 2021

NASA LogoTwo students in the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences are being recognized with 2021 NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities (NSTGRO) fellowships.

The annual program sponsors U.S. citizen and permanent resident graduate students who show significant potential to contribute to NASA’s goal of creating innovative new space technologies for our nation’s science, exploration and economic future.

NASA Space Technology Graduate Researchers perform research at their respective campuses and at NASA Centers. Awards are made in the form of training grants to universities on behalf of individuals pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees, with the student's faculty advisor serving as the principal investigator.

In addition to their faculty advisor, each awarded student is matched with a technically relevant and community-engaged NASA Subject Matter Expert, who will serve as their research collaborator. The research collaborator will serve as the conduit into the larger technical community corresponding to the student’s research area.

Read below for more information about each honoree and their research.

2021 Honorees

Victoria Kravets

Advisor: Torin Clark
Lab: Bioastronautics Laboratory 

Exposure to altered gravity results in acute sensorimotor impairment, including motion sickness, disorientation, and inhibited posture and locomotion. Astronauts will face severe health risks due to this vestibular impairment when engaging in a more active piloting role during future moon or Mars landings. They adapt to these new environments over time, but the danger upon initial exposure to the altered gravity remains. Understanding the underlying mechanisms of this adaptation process would enable sensorimotor impairment prediction and operational mitigation, but it is difficult to directly study how the brain works.

My research will focus on the development of a novel, experimentally validated computational model of the Central Nervous System’s adaptation to altered gravity. This tool will be capable of modeling the neurovestibular adjustment experienced by astronauts, allowing us to investigate operational risks and countermeasure prescriptions including training, rehabilitation, mission scheduling, and more.

Bharath Tata

Advisor: Jim Nabity
Lab: Bioastronautics Laboratory

To enable and sustain human presence on the Moon or Mars, we must take advantage of resources already available in space. Along with acquiring and producing key products like fuel, oxygen, and water in-situ, long-duration missions will require the extraction and purification of metals, manufacture of building materials, and production of complex organic products. An important part of these processes is the separation of mixed gas streams to capture desired gases and subsequently purify gaseous products, recycle reactants, and isolate waste.

My research will focus on using supported ionic liquid membranes (SILMs) to facilitate a variety of gas separations on the moon, focusing on gases derived from the lunar regolith and from spacecraft life support systems. Through my work, I hope to identify task-specific ionic liquids and develop multi-stage SILM separation systems to provide robust, reliable, and efficient options for mission-critical chemical processes.