Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium

Space Grant Alumni

Space Grant scholars are among the brightest, most talented, and highly motivated students in Washington. They major in fields from astronomy to zoology, and many continue on for their doctoral degrees. We proudly introduce a few of our successful alumni.

Alysha Reinard '97|Hans-Peter Marshall '99|Devin Kipp '03|Noah Giansiracusa '06

Alysha Reinard '97

Alysha Reinhard solar flares

For decades, experts have searched for a way to more accurately predict solar flares - the powerful blasts of energy that can supercharge Earth’s upper atmosphere and disrupt satellites and the land-based technologies.

In 2009, solar physicist Alysha Reinard and her research team at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado discovered that the clue to accurate prediction lies in changes in the twisting magnetic fields beneath the surface of the sun in the days leading up to a flare.

Their findings were published in the January 2010 issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters. As a result of her research accomplishments, the Space Grant alumna received the Outstanding Performance Award in Science and Engineering from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

A native of rural Kelso and the first in her family to attend college, Alysha received a four-year Space Grant scholarship, which provided her with full tuition, room and board, making her dreams of a science education a reality. She said it’s hard to imagine what her life would have been like without her WSGC scholarship.

"At the time I didn't have a full understanding of the whole financial situation," Alysha said. "I was hoping to get a scholarship, and a little worried I wouldn't get one. Today the idea of having not gotten a scholarship scares me much more than it did then..."

"The scholarship meant everything to me. I'm really not sure if I would have been able to go to college without it, and obviously I've benefited greatly from it."

Supported by a generous Space Grant donation from astronaut Bonnie Dunbar, Alysha spent the summer prior to her freshman year researching microbursts, a phenomenon which occurs in auroras. The physics major continued her research project throughout her undergraduate years, eventually publishing a paper and presenting her work at two national meetings. Those experiences prepared her well for graduate school.

In 2002, she completed her doctorate in Space and Planetary Physics at the University of Michigan. She was appointed to a post-doctoral fellowship at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., where she conducted research on Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs)—large explosions from the sun's surface—before undertaking her current work on solar flares.

Hans-Peter Marshall '99

Hans-Peter Marshall taking snowpack measurements

Hans-Peter Marshall taking snowpack stratigraphy measurements in Davos, Switzerland, where he was a visiting doctoral student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) in 2004.

Finishing his freshman year, Hans-Peter Marshall knew he liked science and the outdoors, but it took Space Grant's Summer Undergraduate Research Program to bring the two together.

"I didn't even know what glaciology was," says Marshall, now an associate professor of geosciences at Boise State University.

But after working with UW Professors Ed Waddington and Howard Conway on avalanche physics at Snoqualmie Pass and glaciology in the Olympics, he was hooked on the study of ice and snow.

Since then, his research has twice taken him to Antarctica. As a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Hans-Peter received a NASA Earth Systems graduate fellowship and worked as a research assistant at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR). He credits his Space Grant experience with leading directly to his graduate research on the NASA Cold Land Processes Experiment (CLPX) — a multi-sensor, multi-scale experiment that focuses on extending a local-scale understanding of water fluxes, storage, and transformations to regional and global scales.

"I don't know if I would be here if I hadn't gotten involved with research as an undergraduate," he says. Using math and physics in the field was revelation. "I saw where they could be applied and they became tools to me."

As part of his CLPX work, Hans-Peter developed novel light-weight, high-frequency radar for applications in snow hydrology and glaciology, as well as detecting landmines. Since completing his civil engineering doctorate, he has continued to conduct research with INSTAAR and the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory.

He has received the U.S. Young Scientist Award from International Union of Radio Science. The major focus of his research involves quantifying the spatial varaibility of the seasonal snowcover and its effect on remote sensing measurements, snow hydrology, and snow avalanches.

Devin Kipp '03

Since his UW graduateion, Devin Kipp has been a part of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Science Laboratory team, working on the entry, descent and landing technology for Curiosity, the Mars rover scheduled to launch in 2012.

"It's just amazing," said Devin, a JPL systems engineer.

The spacecraft has eight thrusters. He explained that the engineers will turn the thrusters to slow to a hover about 20 meters above the surface while they lower the rover beneath it on a bridle.

"At that point, the craft will descend slowly and set the rover gently on the surface before we cut the bridle and fly the rest of the spacecraft to a safe distance," he said. "The whole thing has to be automated because the light travel time is too long to control it from here."

Devin began working with the JPL team while studying for his master's degree in aerospace engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Growing up in the Renton area, Devin always had a passion for space. As a kid, he once looked up at the stars so much that he fell over on his head trying to take in more of the sky — a story his mother still enjoys sharing.

Without his Space Grant scholarship and his experiences in Space Grant's Summer Undergraduate Research Program, he said his family might have been telling different stories about his dreams and his career.

"I think I probably would have gone to community college for two years, then transferred in," he says. "The scholarship gave me a chance to focus on schoolwork and get involved with research."

That experience, in turn, taught him how the research community works and how industry works. "The research opportunities were the big things that made a difference," he said.

Noah Giansiracusa '06

Noah Giansiracusa

Before Noah Giansiracusa took his first UW class, he was introduced to research through a project with the Space Grant Summer Undergraduate Research Program.

Now he is completing a doctorate in mathematics at Brown University, building on interests he developed that first summer.

As an incoming freshman, Noah worked with UW Physics Professor Gerald Seidler. The team's goal was to advance the knowledge of polymer foam by studying the relationship between its microstructure and its elastic properties. Noah's research involved developing software to help the group reach its goals.

He credits Professor Seidler with sparking his interest in information theory, a topic he continued to explore under the guidance of Mathematics Professor James Morrow.

"We started by studying information theory and coding theory with the hopes of better understanding the mathematics underlying the physics research I've been doing with Professor Seidler," he says. "However, we weren't obligated to follow a fixed curriculum so we segued into various related and unrelated fields of mathematics."

The result was a growing fascination with algebraic geometry—an abstract field with potential impacts on computer efficiency.

The recipient of a Space Grant/Sigurd Olsen Endowed Scholarship, Noah was initially home-schooled, but entered the public school system his freshman year, enrolling at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. During his junior and senior years, he participated in the Running Start program, taking classes at Bellevue Community College, focusing mainly on math and physics. He was one of 32 American high school students selected to take part in the Russian-American Internet Physics Olympiad and continues to be a strong proponent of international travel and collaboration.

Noah said the Space Grant scholarship gave him confidence as he made the transition to a new place and provided the encouragement to do research, something he would not have otherwise sought out. In 2003, he won a prestigious national Goldwater Scholarship, in part due to those research experiences.

After earning his doctorate, Noah plans to teach at the university level, bringing the same kind of enthusiasm and mentoring that he experienced at the University of Washington into his own classes.