Undergraduate students also play a key role in some of the research activities within the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences. Students with a strong interest in space sciences research are encouraged to contact McDonnell Center faculty members regarding how they can get involved. Positions within a specific lab may be volunteer or paid positions depending on the faculty mentor.
In one particular lab, students have studied extraterrestrial materials leading ultimately to co-author status in publications in peer-reviewed journals. Aaron Mertz was a physics undergraduate student who assisted in sample preparation and studies of SN SiC. He is now a graduate student in nuclear physics at Yale University, as well as a Rhodes Scholar.
Wali Akande was an electrical engineering student from Nigeria who assisted in theoretical studies of grain condensation in AGB stellar atmospheres. He is now a graduate student in electrical engineering at Princeton University, studying materials applications of vapor condensation.
Emily Lebsack is a physics major that will begin her senior year in the Fall 2009. She has worked with Professor Bernatowicz for three summers and was responsible for the successful development of a vacuum apparatus and procedures for mounting presolar SiC and graphite in minute quantities of resin that can now be cured without harmful exposure to air. The procedure that she developed leads to a much higher success rate in embedding grains securely for ultramicrotome sectioning.
"Working for the Laboratory for Space Sciences at Wash U has given me a deep appreciation for the nuances and fundamentals of experimental physics. Our endeavors help us to understand the essentials of stars and the origin of our solar system, and I get to work with precious stardust on a daily basis. It is very exciting to see my efforts bringing significant contributions to the lab, and I have learned a great number of skills that will be invaluable to my studies in graduate school." - Emily Lebsack (Emily Lebsack and her advisor, Professor Thomas Bernatowicz)
One of the greatest strengths of the McDonnell Center is the vast scope of research opportunities available to the graduate students. From the very beginning of joining the program at Washington University, the students are encouraged to join a research group. Dr. Sandra Wiseman, one of our most recent graduates, worked on MER rover operations and the newest orbital data from Mars acquired by the CRISM spectrometer aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Based on her research, she proposed a candidate for the Mars Science Laboratory rover mission landing site (launched in 2009) that was one of the 6 finalist landing sites.
Former student, Dr. Jeff Andrews-Hanna, recently published a paper in Nature titled Meridiani Planum and the Global Hydrology of Mars. This paper is based on work that he did while a PhD student at Washington University with his advisor Professor Roger Phillips.