Three Students Win Space Grant Consortium Scholarships

SOCORRO, N.M. January 22, 2015 – Two graduate students and an undergrad won scholarships for their research projects from the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium.

James Price, a master’s student in physics, Kevin Reed, an undergrad in chemical engineering and Mary Anderson, a master’s student in mechanical engineering, each won awards. Price and Reed were awarded $5,000, while Anderson will receive $10,000.

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James Price earned a N.M. Space Grant Consortium scholarship to study massive star formation.


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Kevin Reed earned a N.M. Space Grant Consortium scholarship to develop a health monitoring system for astronauts.


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Mary Anderson earned a N.M. Space Grant Consortium award to develop a structural health monitoring system.


Price was a senior when he applied for the award last fall. He recently started a master’s program, working with Dr. Peter Hofner. His project is titled “Probing Massive Star Formation Environments with Multi-wavelength Observations.”

Anderson is a first-year master’s student working with Dr. Andrei Zagrai. Her project is “Theoretical and Experimental Investigation of Thermal Effects on Electro-Mechanical Impedance Structural Health Monitoring in Space Environment.” She earned her bachelor’s at Tech in May 2014, also in mechanical engineering. She won a similar award from the Space Grant Consortium for the fall 2014 semester.

Reed is a junior working with Dr. Menake Piyasena of the Chemistry Department. His project is “From Afghanistan to Space: Designing a novel microfluidic assay system to diagnose and stage protein energy malnutrition.”

Price is researching the environments that form massive stars. Historically, observations in massive star formation were limited by selection bias to dense “famous” regions such as the Orion Nebula.

“There are many star forming regions out there that can provide insight into the origins of star formation”, Price said. “We can utilize x-ray and infrared data to identify parameters in the environments that form these stars.”

Price transferred to New Mexico Tech after finishing an associate’s at Germanna Community College in Virginia.  Price and his family moved to Socorro in 2010 to pursue his education and recently completed two bachelor’s in physics and mathematics last month.

Reed and his advisor, Dr. Piyasena, are developing a device that can conveniently diagnosis malnutrition in space environments where laboratory equipment is limited. As his project title indicates, the new device will also work terrestrially.

“The current methods of diagnosis involve clinical recognition using the patient’s body mass index and an upper arm measurement,” he said. “We are looking at a biochemical way of doing it, which will be far more accurate and informative.”

NASA is interested in the project as a means to determine the health – or deteriorating health – of astronauts. Reed said this project focuses on finding a feasible method for measuring a concentration change of certain enzymes occurring only in malnourished individuals.

The project was initially started by Tech graduate Jonathan Tsosie, who is now in a doctoral program at M.I.T.

“I was pretty excited to get this award,” Reed said. “Tech is fairly inexpensive, but this helps a lot.”

Anderson is working on Dr. Zagrai’s team that is researching methods of structural health monitoring (SHM) and developing technology to monitor the health of space structures. 

“My interest is in the extreme environment of space and how that environment affects structural health monitoring methods used on spacecraft,” she said. “I’m fascinated by all aspects of the extreme space environment – background galactic and solar event radiation, extreme temperatures, microgravity, atomic oxygen, and ultraviolet radiation. However, the focus of my research will be investigating how the extreme temperatures affect the materials and methods of SHM.”

Originally from Roswell, Anderson graduated from high school in Clovis, and spent several years working in San Francisco and the Bay Area before returning to Roswell to be closer to family. At that time, Mary enrolled in courses at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell (ENMU-R) and subsequently transferred to New Mexico Tech on a Phi Theta Kappa academic scholarship.

 “I was really excited when Dr. Zagrai offered me an opportunity to do research with his group,” she said. “So I jumped on the chance. I had to get my own funding, so I was thrilled to get the Space Grant Consortium award.”

Last semester, Anderson began the work of theoretical modeling for her project and is looking forward to getting into the lab for testing in the near future. Anderson said her project contributes to two NASA Mission Directorates: human space exploration and space technology.

The New Mexico Space Grant Consortium is a member of the Congressionally-funded National Space Grant College Scholarship and Fellowship Program which is administered by NASA. Consortium fellowships and scholarships are competitively awarded based on application information, faculty recommendation, GPA, the research project, and NASA’s Mission. New Mexico Space Grant Consortium is located at New Mexico State University.

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By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech