JUNE 15, 2023 — Xinting Yu sorts though the mound of samples in her lab for a dish containing a quarter-sized, orange haze mimicking the atmosphere of Titan, a moon orbiting Saturn. She needs it to measure the range of Titan’s surface properties for its cohesion, adhesion and electrical charge.
An assistant professor in the UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy, Yu is among five scientists selected by NASA to receive the Planetary Science Early Career Award. The award aims to advance research of early-career scientists with up to $200,000 over five years, positioning them to serve in an increasingly meaningful role in the planetary science community.
Yu’s research focuses on various atmospheric and surface processes of Titan. She plans to use the funds to establish a Planetary Material Characterization Facility at the UTSA Main Campus.
“The facility will obtain and analyze the properties of various planetary materials, including aerosol analogs, meteorites, field samples, regolith simulants and returned samples,” Yu said. “The experimental data will be stored in easily accessible, community-friendly databases, which will be used for theoretical modeling to better understand atmospheric and surface processes within and beyond our solar system.”
Yu is especially excited about the opportunities in planetary research the new facility will provide for UTSA undergraduates. She also hopes the facility, based in the College of Sciences, will further UTSA’s contributions in space research.
Her research team will create an authentic database cataloging planetary and exoplanetary properties to enhance scientists’ understanding of planetary atmospheres and surfaces.
“Our research is crucial in paving the way for the future of planetary science. By developing the Planetary Material Characterization Facility at UTSA and providing a platform for comprehensive material data analysis, we are enabling new avenues for planetary and exoplanet experimental research,” Yu said. “Our focus is on broadening participation and fostering a diverse, next-generation workforce for the field.”
Part of Yu’s award will be used to organize a Texas Area Planetary Science meeting series, fostering a community of local planetary scientists and collaboration among students and institutions. The first meeting series will be held in August at the UTSA School of Data Science.
Yu earned her Ph.D. in Planetary Science at Johns Hopkins University in 2019 and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Santa Cruz from 2019 to 2022.
Don’t know where to start in looking for a job or internship? Virtually join in a live job/internship search navigation lab-style workshop. Follow along to bookmark and save opportunities you are interested in applying for.Student Union (SU 2.02.04,) Main Campus
Don’t know where to start in looking for a job or internship? 🔍 Primary platforms utilized during this workshop are Handshake and LinkedIn. Some industry-specific job search boards may be utilized.Student Union (SU 2.02.04,) Main Campus
First Friday Stargazing gives anyone free access to the night sky using university telescopes and teaching equipment. Weather permitting, experienced astronomers will provide a handful of telescopes of varying designs, give training on how each operates, and point to various astronomical objects that may appear in the sky for that given time of the year. If you have a telescope and do not know how to operate it, feel free to bring it and get instructions on its use.4th Floor of Flawn Science Building, Main Campus
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