Success Stories

Astrogeology Video by Kent Wagner

Check out this very well made video on astrogeology by 2012 NAU Space Grant Intern Kent Wagner!

Astrogeology 1963-2013: Fifty Years of Exploration from Kent Wagner on Vimeo.

John Zanazzi, 2009 Space Grant Intern

John Zanazzi, 2009 Space Grant Intern

John Zanazzi is a senior triple major in physics, astronomy, and math, and takes approximately 18 credit hours per semester and is involved in both the Society for Physics Students and the Astronomy Club.

Along with university research (including a 2009 NASA Space Grant internship), Zanazzi also took part in opportunities off campus through the National Science Foundation (NSF), which helped pave the way for his work with Research Experiences for Undergraduates. This program allows students to conduct research in their areas of interest at several different institutions over the summer. During three separate trips, Zanazzi studied experimental nuclear physics at Wayne State, mathematics at Penn State, and theoretical cosmology at the University of California Davis.

Drawing from his undergraduate research experiences and time with the NSF, Zanazzi crafted a research paper titled “Defining Cosmological Complexity,” which explores how the universe produced life as we know it. For his unique insight into the complexities of the galaxy, Zanazzi received an honorable mention from the University of Chicago’s John Templeton Foundation in the New Cosmic Frontiers International Science Essay Competition on the Nature of our Universe and its Habitats.

Zanazzi received a scholarship from the American Mathematical Society and an invitation to attend the prestigious Math in Moscow program, which allows students to study at the Independent University of Moscow, one of the leading mathematical centers in Russia. and was selected to attend the 15-week seminar as one of a handful of students from North America.  Zanazzi’s trip to Moscow began earlier this spring and will enable him to learn math from a different perspective.

“I think it’s going to be really different,” Zanazzi says. “Russians do math differently than Americans because they focus more on types of problem-solving, which will definitely improve my own problem-solving abilities. I’m going to get to feel what it’s like to learn in that type of environment, which is very exciting.”

Zanazzi plans to pursue a graduate degree in theoretical astrophysics and cosmology before returning to academia as an instructor. Zanazzi credits his time at Northern Arizona University for providing him the skills and support necessary to accomplish his aspirations.

Stargazer Program Opens New Horizons for Alaskan Student

Stargazer Program Opens New Horizons for Alaskan Student

Adam Nanouk travelled a great distance this summer--both physically and intellectually. His first trip away from his remote Alaskan village on the Bering Sea, took him all the way to Arizona to participate in Stargazer, a one-of-a-kind educational program for Native American high schoolers. Sponsored by the Space Grant Program at Northern Arizona University, Stargazer teams students with Ph.D. astronomers from Dinè (Tribal) College, Northern Arizona University, NASA scientists, and others, for an exciting week-long introduction to astronomy. News of Adam's acceptance to Stargazer stirred a great deal of excitement in his community--virtually everyone in the surrounding area attended his send-off party. The first leg of his journey--riding shuttles from home to the airport in Anchorage--was an adventure in itself. There, he reported seeing more people in one place than he could handle and nearly fainted! And that was nothing compared to what he would experience in Arizona!

Adam and his fellow students had opportunities to observe at state-of-the-art telescopes, construct and launch model rockets, and study star lore of different cultures in a star lab. They learned about astro-photography, spectroscopy, and CCD imaging, basic astronomical and physical principles, Native American astronomy, the scientific method, philosophy and ethics of science, and about telescopes, and how to use them. They took field trips to Lowell Observatory, the Astrogeology Branch of the U.S. Geological Survey, and an ancient archaeoastronomy site. Adam ate his first hamburger while on the NAU campus, saw his first ants while on a field trip, and got to wear his first NASA space suit. He said the trip opened his eyes to more possibilities than he ever imagined possible. His interest in space science was definitely sparked. Adam returned home with many stories for the people in his village--who will also, no doubt, marvel at what he has seen. We, in Arizona, anticipate seeing great things from Adam!

2007 NAU Space Grant Astronomy Intern Gregory Mace Takes Passion for Astronomy and Outreach to UCLA

Gregory Mace, 2007 Space Grant Intern, 2008 NAU Grad

While a student at NAU, Gregory Mace participated in two Space Grant Internships. He worked closely with Dr. Lisa Prato at Lowell Observatory to study young, low-mass stars. This work combined almost 20 years of astronomical observations and resulted in two published papers that reveal the gravitational interactions in two- and three-star systems.

Gregory is now a graduate student at UC Los Angeles and a Visiting Graduate Student Fellow at IPAC (the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center). As a member of the UCLA Infrared Laboratory he assembled, modified, and tested MOSFIRE (the Multi-Object Spectrometer for Infra-Red Exploration). This state-of-the-art Cassegrain instrument on the Keck I telescope allows astronomers to observe up to 46 objects simultaneously. These observations produce spectra, which reveal information about stellar composition, star formation, and distant galaxies. Working with the WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) Brown Dwarf Team at IPAC, Gregory has observationally confirmed over 100 of the coolest brown dwarfs in the solar neighborhood. Also, as a graduate student he founded the award winning UCLA astronomy outreach group, Astronomy Live!. This student led group organizes school visits and the annual UCLA science day 'Exploring Your Universe'. For his work founding this group Gregory was awarded the Rudnick-Abelmann Scholarship by the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Joshua A. John, 2003 Space Grant Intern, 2005 NAU Grad

Joshua A. John, 2003 Space Grant Intern, 2005 NAU Grad

I currently work on the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) program that is part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system that is a segment of the U.S. missile defense system. The EKV is a vehicle that is carried upon a Boeing built booster and launched to intercept incoming ballistic missiles against the US or its allies.  I am a team member on a group called the Operations Test and Evaluation team. Our main task is to plan, execute, and analyze tests that are associated with the development of the EKV and GMD system, primarily flight and ground tests. I started with this team in January 2012 and my duty was to analyze post test data at ground tests performed at NASA’s White Sands Tests Facility (WSTF) in Las Cruces, NM. I primarily use MATLAB programming to analyze data, build scripts to process and plot data. The most nerve wracking and best part of the job is when the countdown starts to fire the thrusters and hope everything that you did works. I am glad to be part of this team because it contributes to the nation’s defense.

In addition to my primary work tasks, in 2011 I served as president of the Raytheon Missile Systems chapter of the Raytheon American Indian Network (RAIN), an employee resource group that is dedicated to the development of Native American employees at Raytheon and helps in career development, recruiting, and community service to the Tucson community. In parallel with my membership in RAIN, I am a professional member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). Our group helps college chapters by funding for conferences and outreach projects to K-12 students.

Mike Thomson, 2007 Space Grant Intern

Mike Thomson, 2007 Space Grant Intern

Mike Thomson, Space Grant Intern 2007-08, is working for General Dynamics C4 Systems to help create the fastest data encryption devices in the world. He is also attending Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which will culminate with a Master's degree from Harvard. Mike's next plan is to pursue a PhD - for which he, his wife and two children are currently making preparations. His academic research is focused on advanced computer architectures.

Eric Kiang Tse, 2001 Space Grant Intern, 2005 NAU Grad

Eric Kiang Tse, 2001 Space Grant Intern, 2005 NAU Grad

Former NASA Space Grant Intern Eric Kiang Tse became aware of the vast opportunities available to undergraduates through this program and engaged himself to build on his growing appreciation for the veracity of scientific investigation. He enthusiastically completed a search for Kuiper Belt Objects under the guidance of Dr. Andy Odell and presented results at the Colloquium for NASA Space Grant Interns in 2002. "To gain practical knowledge allowing for scientific contribution is one of the many, priceless benefits offered by this program". Upon graduation in 2005 he was offered an 'Accelerator Systems Operator' position at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC); a National Research Lab run by Stanford University for the Dept. of Energy. Currently the 'Engineering Operator in Charge' (EOIC); he is responsible for maintaining safety, expediting physics programs, guiding operators in troubleshooting the Accelerator and e- beam tuning, assisting Physicists with Accelerator measurements, coordinating Technicians and Engineers while fixing hardware, providing support, presenting daily reports,etc... All of which is necessary to provide the highest quality, brightest, shortest pulse and wavelength, X-Ray Free Electron Laser to experimental users at the only facility in the world that is capable of providing such unprecedented photon beams: the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at SLAC.

Orianna Bretschger, 1999 Space Grant Intern, 1999 NAU Grad

Orianna Bretschger, 1999 Space Grant Intern, 1999 NAU Grad

Dr. Orianna Bretschger is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbial and Environmental Genomics at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), San Diego. She earned her B.S. in physics and astronomy from Northern Arizona University (1999), and Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of Southern California (2008).  Orianna began her professional career at Raytheon Missile Systems and transitioned to a research career in 2004.  Since then, Dr. Bretschger has been studying bacterial electron transfer mechanisms and how bacteria can be applied to engineered systems for optimized energy recovery from organic matter.  As a part of her research, Dr. Bretschger has developed experimental strategies and specialized equipment for the analysis of biological catalysts and is currently the principal investigator for multiple projects involving the selection and characterization of electrochemically active microbial communities from several different environments.  Her work includes collaborations with NASA Ames and Marshall Space Flight Center for the development of sustainable life support systems.

Jillian Urban, 2008 Space Grant Intern, 2009 NAU Grad

Jillian Urban, 2008 Space Grant Intern, 2009 NAU Grad

I am currently a PhD student in the Center for Injury Biomechanics at the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences with Dr. Joel Stitzel.  I received a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Virginia Tech/Wake Forest University in May 2012.  My graduate research is primarily in understanding brain injury mechanisms.   The first part of this research focuses on the development of models of the brain and skull for use in predicting head injuries in car crashes.  A radiological analysis of head CT and MRI scans are used to quantify anatomical changes and develop a scalable finite element model of the skull and brain for an individual of any gender and age.  The second part of this research is focused on understanding the location and distribution of brain injury in motor vehicle crashes.  Occupant and crash parameters in combination with head computed tomography (CT) imaging data from the Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN) provide injury data from real world crash scenarios.  With known crash parameters, internal contacts within the vehicle, visible scalp contusions, and internal brain lesions, we are able to follow the paradigm from the crash to injury more efficiently.  The objective of this study is to relate known crash conditions and lesion location of head injury cases within the CIREN database to the strain response of SIMon via anthropomorphic test device (ATD) head kinematics, in order to better understand brain injury mechanisms. 

Erika Roesler, 2002 Space Grant Intern, 2004 NAU Grad

Erika Roesler, 2002 Space Grant Intern, 2004 NAU Grad

Erika Roesler, Space Grant Intern from 2002-2003, studied cometary photometry with Dr. David Schleicher of Lowell Observatory.  The internship gave Erika valuable experiences with observational astronomy, data analysis, and presenting research.  Following the internship and graduating from NAU, Erika continued her education and received a doctorate in Atmospheric Science from the University of Michigan.  Her research is constantly evolving and has included studying combustion, aerosols, cloud processes, the Arctic environment, and turbulence.  A future research direction includes high-resolution global climate modeling.  Erika is grateful for the lessons learned from the NASA Space Grant which laid positive foundations for developing good practices in research and science.