This faculty research team presents a chance to join an exciting research group that has won competitive NASA selections to design, build, and test particle instruments for a variety of space-based missions. Sending these detectors out into interplanetary space to measure plasma velocity, density, and temperature of the solar wind increases our understanding of the Sun’s corona and the solar wind. One such mission, the Parker Solar Probe is now in its third orbit around the Sun, getting closer and moving faster than any man-made object has before. As part of a suite of instruments, the Solar Probe Cup (SPC) built by Professor Kasper’s team of scientists and engineers has a front row seat on the spacecraft.
A new mission is emerging: NASA’s Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) project, which will characterize coronal mass ejections, the most violent type of solar weather. The mission is set to launch in 2023. This MDP team will build a parallel data processing pipeline for the SunRISE mission that will identify planetary emission from outer planets like Jupiter in response to extreme space weather. Additionally, the team will build and operate a ground–based radio antenna array whose frequency coverage partially overlaps with that of SunRISE. This antenna array will enable a myriad of student research, including numerical simulation of the antenna gain pattern, calibration by drone, tracking low frequency bursts from lightning, and imaging the brightest galactic sources.
Alongside analysis of data from Parker Solar Probe and other active missions, prototype development continues in preparation for future proposal opportunities. Students will work remotely on engineering analysis, laboratory test design, project planning and related activities that will ultimately lead to test and performance evaluation of the instrument in a space–like environment. MDP students will be introduced to physics and data analysis principles that underpin space plasma laboratory work.
The Space Physics Research Lab has an extensive history of successful instrument builds that have flown or currently in orbit about some planetary body in the solar system such as Cassini, the mission to Saturn, SAM, an instrument onboard the Mars Rover Curiosity and much more.
Meeting time and location:
For academic credit, our MDP course is classified as a hybrid course but will mainly meet remotely, following university public health informed guidelines. Our full team typically meets on Wednesdays 3:00pm –4:00 pm ET virtually
Each subteam has a team leader that reports to and meets with the faculty PI. The teams are flexibly structured to enhance creativity and opportunity for student growth.
See our Open Lab presentation
First–year undergraduates through masters graduate students are welcome to apply, and all will be encouraged to stay on the team for more than the two–semester minimum. Leadership roles are available in the lab, and experienced students will be a natural fit for these positions as their knowledge grows over time. Students apply to a specific role on a team as follows:
Mechanical Subteam (2 Students)
Preferred Skills: Completed/taking ME 250 or AERO 205; Solidworks/CAD modeling; Machining(Mill); Mechanical Design; FEA; Matlab/Simulink
Likely Majors: Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Material Science Engineering
Specific Tasks: Design and build permanent fixtures for radio antenna. Design and deploy hardware setup for self-sufficient radio array. Provide support for hardware in ground array.
Electrical Subteam (3 Students)
Preferred Skills: Completed EECS 215/EECS 314; Completed/taking EECS 230; Completed/taking EECS 411; Circuit design; Radio Design; Soldering; LabVIEW
Likely Majors: Electrical Engineering
Specific Tasks: Alter bandpass filter in LWA antenna to observe frequencies below 20 MHz. Track down electromagnetic noise sources from within the antenna & receiver systems. Provide support for hardware in ground array.
Software & Analysis Subteam (2 Students)
Likely Majors: Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Physics, Computer Engineering, Information (SI).
Specific Tasks: Design transient array detection, beamforming, and classification database for SunRISE. Provide support for computer hardware in the ground array. Design software to process ground array’s data with FX correlation.
Apprentice Researcher (3 Students)
Preferred Skills: Interest in project material, willingness to develop skills. Open to first-year and second-year undergraduate students ONLY.
Likely Majors: Any
Associate Professor, Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering
Dr. Kasper designs sensors for spacecraft that explore extreme environments in space from the surface of the Sun to the outer edges of the solar system. Recipient of the 2020 Copernicus Medal, Dr. Kasper is interested in understanding the forces that lead to solar flares and the solar wind, a stream of particles heated to millions of degrees in the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona. His major results concern heating, instabilities, and helium in the solar corona and solar wind, and the impact of space weather on society. In 2007, he used measurements by the Voyager spacecraft to detect the termination shock, a massive shockwave surrounding our solar system. He has served on advisory committees for NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the National Academy of Sciences. He currently leads the SWEAP Investigation, an international team of scientists and engineers building sensors that will collect samples of the Sun for the NASA Solar Probe Plus spacecraft, a mission of exploration that made history as the first human-made object to plunge into the solar corona.
Assistant Research Scientist, Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering
Dr. Alexander Hegedus is a leading expert in simulating and interpreting measurements from space-based low frequency radio arrays. He is a part of several concept array teams that are at various stages of development including SunRISE, RELIC, PRIME, Synchrotron, and FARSIDE. These arrays have a wide range of scientific targets, including solar type II and III radio bursts, radio galaxies, exoplanets, Earth’s transient magnetospheric emissions like auroral kilometric radiation, Earth’s background synchrotron emission from its radiation belts, and early universe cosmology. Dr. Hegedus has a top to bottom understanding of these low frequency radio measurements, with experience spanning from instrumentation to calibration to imaging and data analysis. He is a Co-Investigator and head of the Science Data System for SunRISE, a recently funded NASA Heliophysics Mission of Opportunity that will launch 6 satellites into GEO orbit in 2023 to create the first synthetic aperture in space, imaging radio frequencies from 0.1 – 25 MHz. He is also the Heliophysics/Astrophysics representative on the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group. His research interests include Heliophysics, Radio Astronomy, Lunar Science, Scientific Computing, and Machine Learning.
Likely Majors: Aerospace Engineering, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Information (SI), Mechanical Engineering, Material Science Engineering, Physics
Summer Opportunity: Summer research fellowships may be available for qualifying students.
Citizenship Requirements: This project is open to all students on campus.
IP: Students who successfully match to this project team will be required to sign an Intellectual Property (IP) Agreement prior to participation in January 2021.
Course Substitutions: Honors
Location: Remote positions available: All roles are available for remote participation.
How to Apply