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UTSA’s NASA advanced measurements center hosts inaugural conference

UTSA’s NASA advanced measurements center hosts inaugural conference

Exploring the surface of Mars.

SEPTEMBER 8, 2020 — UTSA’s NASA Center for Advanced Measurements in Extreme Environments recently hosted its inaugural conference. Researchers from UTSA, external partners and students presented their research in a virtual format.

CAMEE is a collaborative venture that includes faculty members from the College of Engineering and College of Sciences. The center’s goal is to build a sustainable source of diverse, highly trained researchers in NASA’s fields of earth system sciences, remote sensing technologies, computational fluid dynamics and experimental fluid mechanics.

Prasad Gogineni, chair of the CAMEE external advisory board and the Cudworth Professor of Engineering at the University of Alabama, was the keynote speaker. His presentation discussed the use of ultrawideband MIMO radars for mapping lava tubes, which are considered potential sites for stations to be used for launching manned trips to Mars and other planets.

Other partners, including Sonya Legg of Princeton University, Donald Perovich of Dartmouth and Marilyn Raphael of UCLA, participated in five-minute big-idea presentations to inspire young scientists and fellow researchers.

“We are so grateful for our external partners’ support and willingness to share their knowledge.”

“We are so grateful for our external partners’ support and willingness to share their knowledge and to give a lot of encouragement to our student participants,” said Hongjie Xie, chair of the Department of Geological Sciences and CAMEE director.

Twenty-two CAMEE students, including Alamo Colleges District student interns, and students from UTSA and partner institutions, were the main presenters. The conference was a valuable opportunity for CAMEE students to showcase their research accomplishments.

Jose Rodriguez, a Ph.D. student in the College of Engineering, presented his experimental work with shockwave/boundary-layer interactions.

“Gaining an understanding of unsteady physical phenomena, such as SWBLI at hypersonic Mach numbers, is very critical to the current and future development of high-speed air vehicles and propulsion systems,” Rodriguez said. “In the same fashion which the jet age’s [aircraft turbine engines] capabilities ushered in a plethora of ‘new at the time’ challenges to aircraft crossing into the transonic and supersonic speed regimes, current national interest and demand for aircraft and reentry vehicles to perform at hypersonic speeds brings with it many challenges. Having the opportunity to make any kind of contribution to this field and possibly advance the state of the art is very motivating and worthwhile, in my opinion.”

Jesse Slaten, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student, and Daniel Brun, a mechanical engineering M.S. student, presented a new theoretical framework to understand buoyant turbulent plumes, such as wildfires and chemical releases with high accuracy by integrating turbulence mathematical framework with real-time mapping from unmanned drones.

Brun is conducting field measurements with built-in drones to acquire high-resolution atmospheric data, which is being used in the mathematical models developed by Slaten and the group members to quantify and predict the turbulent plumes in the atmosphere. The big-data initiative, integrating multisensing data acquired from unmanned aerial and ground vehicles and high-fidelity mathematical equations, is a unique capability being developed at CAMEE.

YoungHyun Koo, a Ph.D. student in the environmental science and engineering program, shared his research on temporal variations of CryoSat-1 and ICESat-2 sea ice freeboard around SIMBA buoys of the MOSAiC expedition.

“There are many data sources to monitor sea ice thickness changes over the polar regions, and CryoSat-2 and ICESat-2 are very important satellite data that have the latest technology,” Koo said. “In order to accurately identify recent impacts of climate change to the polar sea ice, it is important to assess the accuracy of these satellite products. In particular, since these satellite products inevitably include some topographical changes of ice thickness, we have to distinguish the topographical ice changes from the thermodynamic ice changes. Therefore, in this study, I tried to figure out the topographical and thermodynamic impacts of the sea ice variations on the spaceborne measurements, by using buoy data. From this work, I expect to be able to explain the trend of the recent global climate changes more accurately.”

Learn more about the NASA Center for Advanced Measurements in Extreme Environments at UTSA.

The MARS Rover team, including undergraduate students Ethan Beeman, Jassiah Toby and Sean Foote, discussed the process of designing the first 3D-printed rover for extreme environments. Guided by CAMEE faculty member Kiran Bhaganagar, the rover is the first version developed by a UTSA team. The team tentatively plans to test the rover at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory grounds in Pasadena, California, next spring.

Karen Mendiondo, an M.S. geology student in the College of Sciences who works with oceanic measurements from autonomous underwater gliders, said the conference allowed students to network with research professionals.

“I am thankful for the opportunities that this NASA CAMEE program is providing to so many students,” she said. “The support for this program and the time dedicated by countless staff, faculty, and other individuals are making it a success. This program is an asset to UTSA, and it is opening doors and expanding horizons for students.”

“CAMEE’s mission to inspire and train young scientists is well-aligned with what we are doing at UTSA,” said David Silva, dean of the colleges. “As an HSI, we have a particular responsibility to help underrepresented minorities in this country rise and prosper in today’s economy. The valuable experience that students gain through this program will prepare them for many different careers and industries.”

Lauren Moriarty

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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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