Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium

Expanding Frontiers Spring/Summer 2001

Expanding Frontiers is a publication of Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium. To join our mailing list, please send us an e-mail with your request.

Table of Contents:

E-letter begins summer schedule

Beginning in June, the Washington NASA Space Grant Newsletter for Teachers will appear only once a month. We will return to our regular semi-monthly schedule in September. Sign up here for your e-letter subscription.

SG Fellow combines Ph.D. and parenting

Bernadette Rodgers

Bernadette Rodgers and her daughter, Amy

This summer, the new doctor of astronomy, her husband and their two children will move to Chile. Rodgers received a three-year fellowship to work on the new 8.1-meter telescope at the Gemini South Observatory.

For Rodgers, her degree and her work are the culmination of a dream. She discovered astronomy during her last quarter as an undergraduate computer science major.

"I had a great teacher and I loved it, but at that time I was graduating and I already had a job lined up," she says. But the dream wouldn't die.

In the late 1980s, she returned to school for a master's degree in physics. When she landed a job at NASA's Ames Research Center, she spent as much free time as she could with the astronomy group.

With the support of her husband, Peter Schneider, she managed to return to school full time in 1994. This winter, she juggled care for her active 4-year-old son and newborn daughter with completing her dissertation on intermediate mass young stars, the ones that are in the late stages of formation. Her research looked at the activity around the stars, including the possibility of planets forming.

Rodgers believes that the sciences are becoming more accommodating and accessible to a diverse pool of students and researchers, but role models are still needed if the fields are to attract young women into research.

"It's absolutely important for the sciences to be more accepting of people's outside interests, be it family or volunteering," she says.

Rodgers says the size of telescopes have doubled in recent years making this an exciting time for astronomers. Gemini fellows spend about 40 percent of their time on their own research.

UW-SU teams map bodies in space, explore bubble technology

microgravity experiment

Ryan Ollos (center) and Nicole White prepare for their team's ultrasound experiment in reduced gravity. The other UW team used their flight to test a sonochemical apparatus.(NASA)

This spring, UW physics major Ryan Ollos gave his body to science — literally — when a UW-Seattle University team went into microgravity to try to increase the accuracy of ultrasound images in space.

The experiments took place in March aboard NASA's reduced gravity aircraft, the KC-135A, based in Houston. Team members included Ollos; Nicole White, a SU sonography major; Peter Derrick, a recent UW grad in electrical engineering; and UW biology major Laurence Tomsic. UW Researcher Michael Bailey served as the team advisor.

When human beings are in space, their organs shift around in their bodies making it hard to get accurate ultrasound readings, team members say. The goal of the experiment was to map an organ at different gravities, ideally making it easier to predict organ locations in space.

This project was the perfect partnership for the two universities. Seattle University is one of only seven institutions offering baccalaureate degree programs in diagnostic ultrasound while UW's Applied Physics Laboratory has been working to develop technology that would allow minimally-trained personnel to utilize diagnostic and therapeutic ultrasound to stem external and internal bleeding while in space.

The team mapped the movements of two organs — liver and kidney — as a way to increase the predictability of organ location for future research.

A second UW team also took part in the March flights. That team, all physics majors, designed a sonochemical apparatus to observe the effects of zero gravity on the formation of sonochemical products and altered geometric properties of nano-sized metallic particles.

UW team members included seniors Andrew Cook and Paul Parazzoli, and sophomores Justin Reed and David Halaas. Dr. Thomas Matula served as team advisor.

Scholarships given to promising 2001 high school graduates

 UW scholars

Sumona Das Gupta and Christopher Pratt

This year, Space Grant offered University of Washington scholarships to 20 students from around the state. Meet just two of the talented young people who will be joining the UW Space Grant Scholar community.

Sumona Das Gupta of Richland has combined a demanding academic program at Hanford High School with piano, math team, science fairs, National Honor Society, and volunteer work. She is a governor of the Pacific Northwest chapter of Junior State of America and volunteers on the Tri-Cities help line. She plans to study bioengineering.

Christopher Pratt of Bellingham plans to pursue a career in nuclear engineering. A Squalicum High School graduate , he is a National Ventures scholar, secretary of the Future Business Leaders of America and recipient of the Western Washington University Multicultural Achievement Award. He volunteers with Big Brothers and was chosen to serve as a Math Olympiad coach for fourth and fifth graders.

More than 200 promising high school students applied for the scholarships. Awards range in size from $750 for books to $4,500 for full tuition or housing. All Space grant scholarships are renewable up to four years.

Matching funds are provided by academic departments, the Office of Student Affairs, and the Mary Gates, Donnergaard Family, and Sigurd Olsen endowment funds. Space Grant also awarded six UW scholarships to community college transfer students and five graduate fellowships.

WSU alumna enjoys sharing her star smarts

As an undergraduate, Julie Plummer knew she loved stars. What she didn't realize is how much she would love sharing her passion with others.

The Washington State University graduate credits her experiences as a NASA Academy participant with sparking her interest in informal education projects.

"I think astronomers need to give back to the public because that's who supports our research," says Plummer, who is now pursuing a doctorate in astronomy and education at the University of Michigan.

In 1997, she spent the summer at NASA's Goddard Research Center where she created a virtual universe online.

The Web site, aimed at high school students, provided virtual models that visitors could use to zoom around the solar system and tour the planets. Plummer says the experience opened her eyes to NASA's educational side.

For the past seven years, Plummer has worked at university planetariums, first in Pullman and now in Ann Arbor. Last year, she wrote and co-produced an original show on collision s between Earth and space objects.

"It starts with the Tunguska incident where an asteroid exploded over a remote area of Siberia," she says. The blast knocked a man miles away off his porch, flattened trees , and incinerated thousands of reindeer.

She is currently researching new inquiry-based approaches to teaching science. Her goal is to finish her dual degrees in 2003, then apply her knowledge to developing education progams for museums or planetariums.


Mini-grant forms available in July

This year teachers will be able to download mini-grant applications from the Washington NASA Space Grant Web site beginning the end of July.

Space Grant offers grants up to $400 each to K-12 teachers to enrich the study of science and mathematics in the classroom.

The grants must be matched by nonfederal funds. Public, private, and certified home-school teachers are welcome to apply.

Applications are limited to one per teacher. There is no limit to the number of mini-grants a school may submit.

Free fall workshops


Jupiter (NASA)

The NASA Regional Educator Resource Center will again be offering free Saturday workshops this fall.

The first session is Sept. 15 and provides all the activities your students need to make the most of their next planetarium visit.

On Oct. 13, teachers will get a sneak preview of the new edition of Pacific Science Center's popular teaching resource, "Astro Adventures." Meet the authors and sample the lessons.

SG Scholars' Achievements

Devin Kipp

Devin Kipp

UW sophomore Devin Kipp was selected as a 2001 Goldwater Scholar. The aeronautical and astronautical engineering major's goal is to conduct research into alternate propulsion systems for space travel. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering. Kipp, a SG scholar, participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program last year, building a diagnostic tool for determining density for the Star Thrust plasma fusion experiment.

Astronomy major Misty Bentz was accepted into the summer undergraduate research program at Cornell University. SURP scholar Julie Bowman, a chemistry major, published the results of her summer research in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

SG Grad News: Dan Forshee, an aeronautical engineering graduate, headed off to graduate school at the University of Michiganin Ann Arbor. Suzanne Powell, a biology and women's studies major, won a yearlong fellowship with the HHS National Rural Development Partnership Program in Washington, D.C. Biochemistry grad Christine Palermo is wrapping up her research projects at Seattle Biomedical Research Institute while she applies to medical school.