College of Science and Health > About > News & Events > Students Awarded $10,000 Space Grant Fellowship
By Dina Khdair /
September 11, 2023 /
Posted in: Research /
Four graduate students from across the College are 2023 recipients of a prestigious $10,000 fellowship from the Illinois Space Grant Consortium (ISGC). DePaul University has been a member of the Consortium since 2004, part of NASA's National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. The extraordinary partnership funds DePaul students and faculty each year in a variety of disciplines, from astrophysics, chemistry, and math to environmental studies, supporting cutting-edge, timely research in space-related and atmospheric science. The 2023-2024 academic year will see a record number of ISGC grants awarded in the College for undergraduate and graduate research, totaling $104,500.
The $10,000 fellowship supports graduate students conducting independent research, often as part of a thesis project. This year's recipients have a variety of research interests, and all share a passion for scientific curiosity, excellence, and innovation, a key part of the NASA funding framework.
Traas plans to use the fellowship support to study the role of magnetic fields in high-mass star formation to help determine how stars emerge. In collaboration with his thesis advisor Dr. Anuj Sarma, Traas will be working with the Very Large Array (VLA), the world's largest radio telescope. Eventually, he hopes to support the NASA Astrophysics Science Division and the Philippine Space Agency. “I was adopted from the Philippines when I was 2 and am a proud Filipino. Growing up without any Filipino astrophysicist role models, I hope to someday inspire young Filipinos interested in the universe to pursue their dreams" says Traas.
Prior to this work Jocham conducted research at Carthage College on the Dark Energy Survey (DES), which contains hundreds of millions of galaxies, in addition to a project on gravitational waves. Analyzing the mathematical foundations of the waves, he developed a differential equation to help explain the Newtonian mechanics behind the phenomenon, which was later used to develop a programming model and compared with data from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory (LIGO). In the future Jocham hopes to become a researcher in the field of observational physics as a project leader or data analyst.
Drosos' current focus centers around damage from ambient ozone pollution on plants in the Chicagoland area. The ISGC fellowship will allow her to track the effects of secondary ozone pollution from NOx (nitrogen oxides) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are released when fuel is burned at high temperatures and can be emitted from vehicles, airplanes, and industrial sources. Drosos will use ozone indicator gardens at Highland Park, O'Hare International Airport, and the Peggy Notebaert Museum to visualize damage through burn marks, known as stipples, on the leaves of sensitive plants in conjunction with ozone air quality sensor readings and photosynthesis/plant functioning data from garden samples. Ultimately, she hopes to use this research to support further study on the environmental impacts of the nation's air transportation system.
“The boreal forest is a globally important carbon sink and is particularly vulnerable at its southern range due to a variety of factors (e.g., drought, fires, and insect outbreaks) that are influenced by climate change" explains Chernicky. This fellowship will enable her to conduct extensive fieldwork in North American boreal forests to study how white spruce and balsam fir trees are responding to climate change driven increases in competitive pressures from temperate tree species. Chernicky will use both long- and short-term data on seedfall and seedling counts in combination with aerial drone photography and ground mapping to determine if the forests are stable or in transition due to a shifting climate. “Having the support of the ISGC Graduate Fellowship will ensure that this key data is collected and published, cementing an important step towards filling a gap in our understanding of these ecosystems" says Chernicky.