Seven West Virginia University undergraduates have been awarded NASA WV Space Grant Fellowships to work on research projects of interest to the space agency.

The competitive fellowships were given to students in math, science and engineering disciplines from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. The recipients are: Brooke Adams, Bryant Doss, Mehran Mohebi, Larry Rush, Adam Sadowski, Tabitha Smith and M. Kylee Underwood.

The fellowships, worth $7,000 each, are given as part of the NASA’s work to further develop the workforce it needs to achieve strategic goals.

The seven are required to work under the supervision of a faculty member acting as their research advisor.

The West Virginia Space Grant Consortium is a NASA-sponsored organization consisting of 12 West Virginia academic institutions and eight corporate and scientific partners. It is dedicated to building research infrastructure and promoting science, technology, engineering and math education in West Virginia. WVSGC’s primary focus is on research, collaborations with technology industries, student fellowships, and K-12 and public outreach programs.

The even students and their research projects:

Brooke Adams
Major: Physics.
Research: Carboxylesterase as a possible bioscavenger against organophosphorus nerve agents.
Adviser: James Lewis, PhD, professor of physics.
She’s investigating the ability of human carboxylesterase to be used as a potential bioscavenger against toxic nerve agents in chemical warfare. She’ll use modeling approaches to examine the specific nanoscale interactions between carboxylesterase and the nerve agents.

Bryant Doss
Majors: Physics, computer science.
Research: Computational determination of optimal CO2 and RDX adsorption in a photoactive metal-organic framework.
Adviser: Lewis
Using metal-organic frameworks built by connecting metal clusters with organic ligands, Doss hopes to make a selectively viable bind, perform photoabsorption spectroscopy, examine for a fingerprint to indicate gas adsorption and discover an efficient candidate for trace detection of explosives in low vapor pressures that has serious security justifications.

Mehran Mohebbi
Majors: Physics, engineering.
Research: Multi-wire emittance measurements.
Advisers: Milorad Popovic, PhD, and Eric Prebys, PhD, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
At the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory where Mohebbi is the 2009 Lee Teng intern, an emittance of a particle beam was found to be measured in the horizontal and vertical directions, and the result of this measurement is intended to be used as a basis for future emittance measurements. Mohebbi developed the Multi-wire Emittance Measurements Program and a detailed manual for how calculations are done to make the data analysis faster and repeatable for future measurements.

Larry Rush
Major: Chemistry.
Research: Density functional theory analysis on DNA’s elasticity.
Adviser: Lewis.
He is studying the physical aspect of DNA separation from double-stranded into single-stranded DNA trying to understand the methods DNA uses when cellular replication occurs. He will recreate the motion, direction and force used by the enzyme to separate DNA to study the deformation energy needed to physically alter DNA.

Adam Sadowski
Majors: Biology, chemistry.
Research: A biomimetic approach for the control of crystal growth in calcium carbonate.
Adviser: R. Lloyd Carroll, PhD, assistant professor of chemistry.
Calcium carbonate is a natural, unique and major component of commercial, industrial and medicinal importance in biomineralization that can decrease surface energy. The methods by which living systems control the structure of materials is under investigation, and Sadowski has designed novel approaches that mimic basic biological strategies to drive crystal structure and morphology of calcium carbonate.

Tabitha Smith
Major: Physics.
Research: Radio Properties of Rotating Radio Transients III: Study of J1819−1458’s Single Pulse Properties.
Adviser: Maura McLaughlin, PhD, assistant professor of physics.
J1819−1458 is a neutron star that emits frequent, sporadic emissions. In her research, she looked for whether there was any evidence for phenomena seen in normal pulsars, such as moding and drifting, by searching for signatures of chaos using the method of Lyaponuv Exponents. She discovered interesting results in that the mean flux of this star is conserved and will study it further.

Kylee Underwood
Majors: Computational physics, mathematics.
Research: Study of Electronic Properties of Chlorophyll and Carotene.
Adviser: Lewis.
Her research studies the electronic properties of chlorophyll and carotene outside the biological system, which act as electron donor and acceptor molecules. She has found six configurations that have been optimized, and will study another method of relaxing the molecules involving an artificial computational excitation to bring molecules closer to ground state, which has revealed more information. In addition to the NASA award, Underwood received a Goldwater Scholar honorable mention this year.

For more information, contact Candy Cordwell, NASA WVSGC program manager, at 304-293-4099 or



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