Off-campus projects



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NAU/NASA SPACE GRANT UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH INTERNSHIP PROGRAM 2012-2013

OFF-CAMPUS PROJECTS
The following projects have been proposed by scientists at Lowell Observatory and the US Geological Survey who would like a Space Grant Undergraduate Research Internship student. All projects will be conducted at Lowell Observatory, the US Geological Survey, the Northern Arizona Center for Emerging Technologies (NACET), or Architectural and Environmental Associates. If you are interested in one of these projects, please contact Dr. Barlow (Physical Sciences Room 200) who can give you more information about the Space Grant Internship Program requirements and the contact person for the project. You MUST contact the mentor to talk to them directly about the project, and both you and the mentor must agree to the working relationship before submitting the Internship application.
Deadline for Student and Mentor applications (both must be submitted) is Friday, March 23, 2012. Off-campus projects often get taken quickly, so do not wait until just before the deadline to inquire about these projects. Mentors often have other commitments (such as observing, conferences, or other job-related activities—in particular, USGS scientists will be gone to a conference the week that the applications are due) which take them away from the office/Flagstaff for periods of time, so the sooner you can contact them, the better your chances of getting the project you want.
Lowell Observatory: Located on Mars Hill Rd.(near Thorpe Park)
1. Understanding Star and Planet Formation via Mid-Infrared Variability 

The goal of this project is to identify mid-infrared (mid-IR) variable stars in a nearby Galactic star-forming region and diagnose the different physical mechanisms (star spots, obscuration by dust, eclipse events, stellar flares/outbursts, etc.) that underlie each star's variability. The student will analyze mid-infrared 'light curves’ (i.e, flux vs. time) constructed from nearly 100 distinct Spitzer Space Telescope observations of a nearby star forming region and determine which stars have statistically significant flux changes (ie, not just random photometric noise).  For those stars that are confidently detected to be variable, the student will analyze additional data (spectra, color information, etc.) to distinguish between different physical models for variability. Computational analysis could be conducted in either IDL or python.  


Desired qualifications: This project is most appropriate for students with an interest in astrophysics, and with math and physics training comparable to that of a second-year physics major.  Additional experience in math, science, and/or computer programming will be helpful, but not required.  
Applicable Majors: Astronomy, Physics, Math

2. Directly Determined Diameters and Temperatures for Giant Stars

Using archival data from the Palomar Testbed Interferometer (PTI), this research project will determine angular diameters of hundreds of giant stars in the near-infrared.  These diameters will be combined with distances to determine linear sizes, and with spectral energy distribution (SED) fits to determine effective temperatures.  Observing opportunities are possible with collection of additional visible-light diameters using the Navy Optical Interferometer on Anderson Mesa.  The project will be based on PTI data reduction to obtain angular diameters, and on SED fitting for temperatures, using existing software tools.  In the latter part of this project, obtained values of linear radius and effective temperature will be compared with spectral type, color, metallicity, and other indices to extract the relevant astrophysics.


Qualifications: Interest in stellar astrophysics; Familiarity with Linux/Unix environment and with C / C++ / Python / Perl desired, but can be taught to a student willing to learn.


Applicable Majors: Astronomy, Physics
US Geological Survey: Located near Buffalo Park, on McMillan Mesa
1. Assessment of structurally-controlled diagenesis associated with Martian impact craters in sedimentary rock. FILLED – No longer available

Impact craters on Earth are known sites where diagenetic alteration can be driven by geothermal heating resulting from the impact process. On Mars, impact-related heating has resulted in impact melting of target rocks in some craters, and impact related heating has also been proposed as a cause for the formation of clays in impact ejecta. Accordingly, impact craters have been proposed as possible sites for long-lived hydrothermal systems. This project aims to find sites on Mars where there is evidence of impact-related hydrothermal systems and then to characterize the geology of one such site. This will be accomplished by using hyperspectral data to find evidence of diagenetic alteration associated with impact craters. Emphasis will be placed on impact craters in the equatorial sedimentary deposits. The geology of one of these sites will be assessed using imagery and a digital elevation model.




2. Mars North Polar Ice Emissivity–Distribution in Time and Space
FILLED – No longer available

Emissivity is a measure of how well a surface emits radiation compared to that of a blackbody at the same temperature. The Martian polar caps consist of a seasonal carbon dioxide ice cap and a permanent water ice cap. The seasonal carbon dioxide ice cap displays variations in emissivity as a function of time, due to grain size variations and dust contamination. This project will utilize Mars Global Surveyor Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) data to chart the variations in emissivity in the infrared region of the spectrum as a function of time by using EPF data to separate atmospheric and surface effects. Results will be used to develop a model for why the polar cap emissivity varies as it does. If time allows, the atmosphere will also be modeled.



Applicable Majors: Astronomy (Planetary Science), Physics


3. Web Exhibit for USGS Astrogeology’s 50th Anniversary

2013 marks 50 years since USGS Astrogeology came to Flagstaff, Arizona. Since then, the name Flagstaff has become synonymous with planetary geology and mapping in the world of planetary science. The USGS Astrogeology Science Center, as it is now known, will celebrate its first half century throughout 2013. One way we plan to observe this anniversary is through creation of a "web exhibit" (basically a series of web pages) illustrating our history and scientific accomplishments. The Space Grant Intern will assist the Regional Planetary Information Facility (RPIF) manager in creating this new web exhibit. This project builds upon the work of three past Space Grant Interns but it is not a duplication or continuation of their work. Rather, it will demonstrate the research potential of the materials in the Astrogeology RPIF collections that previous students have organized and constitute an opportunity for creativity based on those materials.

Our ideal candidate will be interested in sharing science with the public. They will also be interested in history, maps, and vintage photographs. We would prefer a planetary science student with demonstrated web skills and outreach interest. History students would, however, also be appropriate, as would IT and archives students. Though the student will work closely with the manager, initiative and self-motivation are desirable qualities. Most of all, our ideal candidate will be interested in being a key part of Astrogeology's 50th anniversary.
Applicable Majors: Astronomy (Planetary Science),

Geology, History, Computer Science, Library Science
4. Science Writing Intern at the U.S. Geological Survey Center for Astrogeology

Scientists at the USGS Center for Astrogeology are actively involved in spacecraft missions to several planets, and perform other high profile research projects in the field of solar system exploration. This NASA Space Grant internship will involve communicating the results of our research to members of the press and public, through written press releases, technical memorandums, and internal USGS media. The intern will be expected to help generate ideas for stories, gather background information, and draft text that will be reviewed by the Project Mentor and other scientists prior to publication.


Excellent writing skills are needed for this internship! An interest in, and enthusiasm for, space exploration would be an asset. No formal science background is necessary, but candidates with such training will be at an advantage. The intern will be expected to devote up to 10 hours weekly to this project, on a flexible schedule, with part of the time in residence at our campus on Gemini Drive (accessible from NAU via public transportation).
Applicable Majors: Journalism, Communications,

Astronomy (Planetary Science), Geology
NACET: Located near Buffalo Park on McMillan Mesa


  1. Characterization of High-Temperature Fiber Reinforced Composite Matrix Material

FILLED – No longer available

ATC Materials is a materials development company whose vision is to solve engineering problems through the development of novel materials. ATC’s development group is comprised of engineers and scientists with backgrounds in Materials Science and Engineering and Chemistry. ATC has a combine 60+ years experience in coatings, and ceramic and polymer materials. ATC’s technologies are applicable to missiles, space vehicles and ballistic armor. ATC Materials is currently developing a high temperature fiber reinforced composite matrix material for use in high temperature applications. Examples of potential applications of this material are:



  • Elevated short term temperature capability such as in high speed vehicles where aerothermal heating is significant

  • Increased flammability resistance for ships and submarines

  • Possible uses in the space environment where extremes of temperature are present as well as the presence of atomic oxygen and extreme ultra violet radiation

The goal of this project is to have the student characterize the material in a relevant environment. This would likely include the design of tooling to manufacture test coupons, manufacturing of the composite test coupons using ATC’s matrix resin, designing test parameters, carrying out and coordinating tests and finally, interpreting test results.


Applicable Majors: Engineering, Chemistry, Physics
2. Chemical Ignition Systems

Student will work with mentors from two NACET companies which are researching and designing chemical ignition systems for use with specific biofuels which will be used in several common consumer and industrial products. The student will assist the mentors with (1) research, design, model and test of exothermic catalytic reactions, (2) development of economical constraints matrix based on material and chemical selections, and (3) application of results to ignition requirements of specific biofuels of varying volatility, density, and phases.


Student should have the ability to perform computer modeling and testing of chemical catalytic reactions and should have a background in organic chemistry and/or physics.
Applicable Majors: Chemistry, Engineering, Physics

Architectural and Environmental Associates, Inc. (Located on Lake Mary Rd.)
1. Design and Installation of Solar Energy Systems FILLED – No longer available

Architectural & Environmental Associates, Inc. (AEA) is a 30 year old sustainability and renewable energy firm that is seeking a student to help with Auto CAD drawing for solar systems and also be involved in the design and installation of the solar systems.  The ideal candidate should have Auto CAD experience and some background in construction or electrical work.  He or she should have a keen interest in sustainability and alternate forms of energy with an eye for solving the many problems we face in creating a sustainable economy and planet.


Applicable Majors: Engineering

UPDATED: 3/21/12
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