As humankind reaches for the stars to journey to the next frontier in space, research on aerospace materials, space biology, and physiology are crucial for understanding how mechanics, space biology, and human health may be affected by spaceflight and space exploration. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), Daytona Beach, Florida, will host a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site in experimental and computational multidisciplinary aerospace research, focusing on mechanics, materials science, and aerospace physiology by inviting ten undergraduate students for a 10-week summer program. The students will gain experience in materials synthesis, coating, sampling characterization, computer modeling directly related to various fields of aerospace, mechanical, materials, and environmental engineering, as well as space microbiology and aerospace physiology. The REU participants will publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals and/or present at professional meetings leading to broad dissemination of new knowledge created in the undergraduate research projects. Moreover, seminars will expose the students to various aspects of graduate school (applications, scholarships, presentation skills, scientific writing) and professional life. Recruitment efforts will attract students from underrepresented and minority groups from universities with limited research facilities. Finally, participants will have a chance to engage K-12 students through STEM summer camps at Embry-Riddle and inspire the next generation of young people to consider a career in science and engineering. Believing in both theory and practice; the REU site is interested in experimental as well as mathematical modeling of difficult problems while at the same time building real systems for demonstrating those solutions in real-life situations.
The REU-research projects are organized around three main axes: (1) thermal applications; (2) biomonitoring in space; and (3) biomimetics. The undergraduate research projects contribute to the fundamental understanding of aerospace sciences, materials science, aerospace physiology, and topics including space thermal management, bioinspired hierarchical structures, and space health (e.g., effects of microgravity and space radiation). The projects are focused on two main ideas for expanded space exploration: (1) the need for technology supporting human space travel and extended stays, and (2) the need to investigate the effects of space travel on the body. Some examples of research projects include the fabrication of a flexible, stretchable, and self-healable platform for aerospace applications, a study of intracellular reactive oxygen species when exposed to space radiation, or biomarker sensing using flexible transistors on skin. The site will initiate the establishment of a mentoring relationship by conducting regular Golden Eagle Meetings with their mentors. Students will directly conduct research starting with literature review, conducting experiments and/or computational work, gathering and analyzing data, and presenting their results. The undergraduate student projects have short-term achievable milestones while simultaneously contributing to longer-term scientific goals and technological applications. At the completion of the program, students will present their research findings at a summer undergraduate research symposium at ERAU. The program assessment will be performed in collaboration with the center of learning and teaching excellence to analyze the effect of the research experience on student outcomes.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.