Graduate Fellows 2013

Graduate Research Fellows
Baynes, Cayla

Baynes, Cayla

I am a third year Ph.D. student in the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Interdisciplinary Program.  My research focuses on developing low-cost medical devices for the identification, detection, and quantification of cancer biomarkers using a paper-based platform.

My outreach project is a weekly afterschool club at Elvira Elementary School named Operation S.O.A.R.  The students learn about engineering design and teamwork as they work through lessons based on situations that astronauts might encounter on a long journey.  Learning how sensors work and how to construct them is a major theme in this program.  The other major theme in this afterschool club is how biomedical engineering can help individuals monitor their health using an everyday device – a smartphone. 

Chen, Sophia

Chen, Sophia

I am a first-year physics Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona, researching utility-scale solar energy in Dr. Alex Cronin’s lab.   I am passionate about environmental issues such as pollution, energy security, and climate change. In addition to their technical elements, I am also interested in the social aspects of these issues, particularly promoting interdisciplinary and cross-cultural communication.  I spent a year in China on a Fulbright fellowship researching coal-related pollution.  While there, I taught environmental awareness classes to Chinese students to help bridge the gaps between our perspectives.   Outreach—raising environmental awareness and capturing the interest of a new generation of scientists—is essential to this line of work.  The Space Grant allows me to communicate with different groups of people about these environmental issues.

I help organize and coordinate a high school solar go-kart competition run by Tech Parks Arizona at the University of Arizona Tech Park called Racing the Sun (RTS).  The program is in its third year, and participating schools come from all over Arizona, including Tucson, Phoenix, and Monument Valley areas.  Students design, build, and race solar-powered go-karts under the mentorship of two high school teachers.  The participants gain skills in electronics and engineering in a fun, hands-on setting.  In the spirit of interdisciplinary education, the program also has an entrepreneurial component:  the students fundraise the cost of the go-kart.  I connect academics and industry professionals to mentor these high school students, and I help to organize and teach workshops.  The program seeks to promote interest in STEM and to help students begin to develop the skills necessary for such careers.

Coe, Michelle

Coe, Michelle

Michelle Coe: My NASA Space Grant Graduate Fellowship involves incorporating Manzo Elementary's restoration ecology program into the classroom. I am doing this by implementing projects occurring at Biosphere 2's Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) into Manzo Elementary's greenhouse. One of Manzo's 4th grade classes will be learning and replicating projects happening at the LEO site, as well as visiting the Biosphere 2 twice during the school year. Projects occurring in Manzo and LEO's greenhouses will include hypothesizing, data collection, and analyzing native seedlings planted on LEO soil. Furthermore, we will be looking at variables such as variation in aspect, temperature, and soil moisture as these variables may occur in a natural landscape. This will help the children get a sense of how their research and projects can relate to science on a larger scale (both in terms of the LEO project and climate change projections), as well as allow a new and innovative area for math, science, and English skills to be incorporated into their curriculum. The classroom outline at Manzo Elementary includes 1 hour lesson plans and 2 hours in the greenhouse each week, where the children review concepts, collect data, and learn vocabulary focused on climate change, landscape, vegetation and more.

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The Arizona Space Grant Consortium is proud to support this impressive STEM education program at Tucson’s Manzo Elementary school through the efforts of UA Graduate Fellow Michelle Coe. Michelle speaks about her program with Manzo students in a PBS AZPM video segment.

Video from "Local Kids Benefit from Nationally Recognized Ecology Program" by Mitchell Riley

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Davis, Jason

Davis, Jason

My NASA Space Grant project is a documentary film called Desert Moon. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy declared humans would walk on the moon before the end of the decade. But at the time, scientists knew very little about the moon—including whether the surface was solid, or a thick layer of dust that would swallow a spacecraft.

Desert Moon explores the creation of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. The lab, founded by astronomer Gerard Kuiper, played a critical role in constructing the first photographic lunar atlases in support of the Apollo moon landings. Kuiper’s team also participated in the Ranger program, an effort to send America’s first unmanned spacecraft to the moon.

The film features interviews with current and retired UA planetary scientists, and contains archival photos and videos from the lab’s early days. Desert Moon debuts at Flandrau Science Center in 2014.

I am a University of Arizona journalism master’s student specializing in science writing. Last year, I created Scientific Tucsonan, a digital science journalism magazine for iPad. I was the Wick Science Communications Intern for Green Valley News. I am also a contributing editor for the Planetary Society, a non-profit space advocacy group co-founded by Carl Sagan and currently led by Bill Nye.

Documentary Explores How the UA Helped Land a Man on the Moon

Lybrand, Rebecca

Lybrand, Rebecca

Rebecca is a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, with a minor in Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis. Her research is focused on changes in soil development and soil carbon storage across contrasting climates and landscape positions. Rebecca’s field sites are located in the Santa Catalina Mountains of southern Arizona, where her sites span desert scrub to mixed conifer forest.

Rebecca is committed to science education outreach and has volunteered as an i-STEM mentor since 2012. The i-STEM hybrid mentoring program is focused on broadening the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM education programs and careers. i-STEM employs a combination of in-school, hands-on science activities and informal, out-of-classroom science field trips to stimulate interest and knowledge of STEM fields. Mentors recruited from the Tucson community are paired with 3rd-8th grade students from local schools. This NSF-funded initiative is committed to evaluating the program’s effectiveness on Native American and Hispanic student academic performance and science retention.

Rebecca is developing Space to Soils modules for use by i-STEM mentors and mentees as her UA/NASA space grant educational outreach project. The Space to Soils modules aim to integrate applied, technology intensive activities using satellite imagery to explore the Earth’s surface from space with a closer, hands-on examination of the soils encountered in everyday life. Rebecca’s goal is for i-STEM mentees to be engaged in the world’s interconnectedness from the expanses of space science to the intricate details of soil science. Mentees and mentors will also be taking a field trip to the University of Arizona’s Campus Agricultural Center where they will participate in a combination of space and soils related activities including the exciting exploration of soil pits!

The educational materials developed for the i-STEM hybrid mentoring program will be made publicly available for use by K-12 teachers and educators worldwide. 

Sommers, Pacifica

Sommers, Pacifica

I am a fourth year Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. I study how invasive plants affect biodiversity. I am passionate both about science and the outdoors, and especially combining them. My Space Grant project allows me to pursue those interests in helping to inspire a new generation of explorers and scientists. 

Exposing students to science inquiry in outdoor settings increases their interest in and knowledge of scientific concepts. But despite the rich natural resources near Tucson, many Tucson students lack access to them due to financial and logistical limitations of their homes and schools. As a Fellow in the BioME GK-12 program last year, funded by the National Science Foundation, I spent several days every week in two seventh grade classrooms. I experienced first hand how important interactive and informal learning can be. I also understood better all the logistical challenges to moving science class outdoors. 

I have been a volunteer and certified trip leader for Tucson Inner City Outings (Tucson ICO), a nonprofit that provides outdoors experiences for low income youth of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, for three years. I have partnered with Tucson ICO and the Mount Lemmon Sky Center (MLSC) to develop, fundraise for, and lead at least four overnight multi-disciplinary experiences for middle school groups to Mount Lemmon. We explore the ecology, geology, and astronomical viewing opportunities provided by the Sky Islands in our region, and how best to protect these resources. These trips will serve as pilot projects for in a developing vision of a Sky School education program at MLSC.