Fairfield Faculty and Students Secure NASA CT Space Consortium Grants

Fairfield Faculty and Students Secure NASA CT Space Consortium Grants

students and professor in classroom

Grants in the 2024-25 funding cycle will advance research on topics ranging from examining the behavioral and neurobiological impacts of confinement to cognitive workload analysis via deep learning.

The NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC) has awarded Fairfield University School of Engineering and Computing and the College of Arts & Sciences with eight research grants to fund research and design projects this year.

In spring of 2024, associate professor electrical and biomedical engineering Djedjiga Belfadel, PhD; professor of chemistry John Miecznikowski, PhD; assistant professor of psychology Karl Schmidt, PhD; professor and chair of computer science Xiaoli (Lucy) Yang, PhD; Madeleine Biardi ’27, John Chiodo ’24, Ethan Chow ’27, and Brody Matijevic ’25 received research grants.

Dr. Schmidt’s research study, “Behavioral and Neurobiological Impacts of Confinement” examines whether confinement changes brain systems and behaviors to increase the behavioral effects of drugs of abuse. These increased behavioral effects are associated with increased risks of addiction-like behaviors. “Essentially, my laboratory uses rodent models to study the effects of stress and drugs of abuse,” said Dr. Schmidt. “Exposure to small spaces is a stressor for both humans and rodents alike. People in space, whether astronauts on missions or space tourists, are confined to small spaces during life on the shuttle.” 

Dr. Yang received funding for her research entitled “Cognitive Workload Analysis via Deep Learning with Emotion Regulation and Virtual Reality for Aeronautics Safety Application.” Physiological sensing is crucial for aeronautics safety, evaluating cognitive workload in tasks. Deep neural networks evaluate cognitive states through EEG data, and enhancing well-being by integrating emotion recognition with VR-based regulation. This research integrates physiological assessment and emotion recognition to measure workload using VR and EEG signals.

Dr. Miecznikowski was awarded funding for his research entitled “Synthesis and Characterization of ONO Cobalt(II) and Nickel(II) and Copper(I) Pincer Complexes”. His research involves synthesizing and characterizing small molecules that contain metals that have the potential to catalyze or speed up chemical reactions. Dr. Miecznikowski and research assistants Samantha Erickson ’25 and Joseph Trucchio are seeking to prepare cobalt((I) nickel(II), and copper(I) complexes that contain novel ligands. Having already prepared a family of cobalt(II) complexes, Dr. Miecznikowski are looking to prepare nickel(II) and copper(I) complexes that contain these ligands. Additionally, he plans to screen the novel cobalt(II), nickel(II), and copper(I) complexes for the catalytic reduction of electron poor aldehydes and the electrocatalytic conversion of carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide and protons to hydrogen gas.

Dr. Belfadel was awarded a NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium Faculty Project Grant for “Building Programmable, Affordable Drones for GPS-Denied Swarm Navigation Research and Education.” Dr. Belfadel’s research is focused on developing an alternative navigation system that allows drones to execute autonomous missions, even in environments that lack reliable GPS signals. 

In addition to faculty grants, the following students were awarded undergraduate research grants:

  • Physics major Madeleine Biardi was awarded a NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Research Grant for the application titled: “Grant Proposal for 8 Week Internal Wave Driven Mixing in Canyons Research.”
  • Ethan Chow, a physics major, was awarded a NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Research Grant for “Projected Changes in Future Extreme Snowfall in the White Mountains in the CMIP6 Ensemble.”
  • Brody Matijevic, a mechanical engineering major, was awarded a NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Research Grant for “Projecting Changes in Extreme Snow over Northeast US.”
  • Mechanical engineering student John Chiodo was awarded a NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium Student Project Grant for his proposal “The Electro-Pneumatic Air Shock Optimization System.”

The NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium is a federally mandated grant, internship, and scholarship program that is funded as a part of NASA Education. The mission of the Consortium is to establish and promote NASA-related research opportunities that draw on the collaborative strength of private, academic, and government sectors, and to support education initiatives that inspire students to pursue STEM careers.

Tags:  School of Engineering and Computing,  Top Stories

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