U.S., international students compete at Von Braun Memorial Symposium poster session

University students from across America and internationally competed in the ninth annual Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium student poster competition hosted by The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) on Oct. 23-25.

"This is the first year that the poster competition was open to students from any university. As a result, we had more than 60 students apply, not only from UAH but also from across the country and internationally. We were really excited to have this opportunity for our undergraduate and graduate students to compare their work with students at other schools," says Dave Cook, director of undergraduate research for UAH's Office of Academic Affairs.

Students present research projects relevant to the aerospace industry, such as atmospheric science, earth observation, space life sciences, space health, aerospace systems engineering and design, astrophysics, space weather, optics, economics, business, policy, sustainability, history, international relations, education, STEM outreach initiatives and related areas. This year, 40 students participated in the competition.

"It’s really interesting to see the exciting ways in which students are able to convey their research in poster presentations," Cook says. "Students have an opportunity to explain their research to a team of judges made up of young professionals from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and American Astronautical Society (AAS) members. Students are also invited to the VBS networking events, so it’s really a valuable opportunity for them to improve their communication skills and interact with professionals during the symposium."

Again, this year, AAS offered the opportunity for one of the poster competition winners to present their research at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Washington, D.C. set for Oct. 21-25, 2019. The poster competition winners can apply to the IAC, and of those selected, AAS will choose one student to receive registration, airfare and lodging for the conference.

"This is an amazing chance for one of the winning students to attend the world’s largest gathering of aerospace-related experts, and present their research. We thank the AAS for this opportunity, and I’d also like to thank the UAH faculty and research staff who work with our students and encourage them to participate in events like this," Cook says.

This year’s poster winners were:



1st Place
Tharikaa Ramesh kumar, Auburn University
Towards Safer and More Stable Rocket Launches!
Mentor: Dr. Joseph Majdalani

2nd Place
Valerie Lawdensky, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Computational Analysis of Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Rocket (NTPR) Fuel and Prospective Coating
Mentor: Dr. William Culbreth


1st Place
Kayla Capitan, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Zinc Whisker Detachment
Mentor: Dr. Matt Turner

2nd Place
Victor Azevedo, University of Brasilia
Experimental Investigation of High Regression Rate Paraffin for Solid Fuel Ramjet Propulsion
Mentor: Dr. Carlos Alberto Gurgel Veras

Physical and Liberal Sciences


1st Place
Andrea Puzzi Nicolau, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Applications of NASA Earth Observations for Monitoring Forest Loss in the Madre de Dios Region of Peru
Mentor: Dr. Robert Griffin

2nd Place
Ronan Lucey, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Evaluating a New Impact Assessment Method for Agricultural Productivity Treatments in Nepal Using Machine Learning and Space-Borne Data
Mentor: Dr. Robert Griffin


1st Place
Angela Burke, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Developing Cloud-cleared Backgrounds to Assist in GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager Multi-spectral Imagery Applications
Mentor: Dr. Daniel Lindsey

2nd Place
Christopher Helmerich, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Anti-Coincidence Detector Performance Analysis
Mentor: Dr. Francis Wessling


Dave Cook