UAH hosts international student poster competition at Von Braun Symposium

Thais Arslanbekov presenting a poster

The 15th annual Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium student poster competition attracted students from across the world.

Courtesy Dave Cook

University students from across the United States and the world competed in the recent 15th annual Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium (VBS) student poster competition hosted by The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) on Oct. 26-28.

“This is the fourth year that the VBS poster competition was open to academic research by students from any university,” says Dave Cook, director of undergraduate research at UAH, a part of the University of Alabama System.

“As a result, we had 96 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 go head-to-head with students from other universities,” he says. “UAH students captured two of the finalist spots, and all of the participants did an excellent job representing their respective universities.”

The poster session is an opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students to 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.

“You could really feel the energy and enthusiasm in the room,” Cook says.

“Students had an opportunity to explain their research to a team of judges made up of American Astronautical Society (AAS) members,” he says. “Additionally, we were able to successfully utilize a new judging app created by UAH computer science undergraduate and graduate alumnus Nick West, bringing the poster session into the electronic era.”

Student poster participants were also able to join VBS symposium sessions and networking events, so the symposium was a valuable opportunity for up-and-coming scholars to improve their communication skills and interact with top professionals in the aerospace field.

Again, this year, AAS is offering the opportunity for one poster competition finalist to present research at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan. on Oct. 2-6, 2023. The poster competition finalists 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 poster finalists to attend the world’s largest gathering of aerospace-related experts and present their research,” Cook says. “We thank the AAS for making UAH the home of 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.”

This year’s poster finalists were:


Physical & Liberal Sciences/Graduate Division


First place

Takuto Hayashi

University of Tsukuba, Japan

"Lunar gravity prevents skeletal muscle atrophy, but not muscle fiber type transition”


No second place awarded.


Physical & Liberal Sciences/Undergraduate Division


First place

Thais Arslanbekov

University of Alabama in Huntsville

“Electrical and thermochemical analysis of polyvinyl alcohol and hydroxylammonium nitrate combustion mechanism”


Second place

Carol Mitchell

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach

“Assessment of Dose-dependent Endocrine and Immune Responses to Simulated Ionizing Radiation”


Engineering/Graduate Division


First place

Fereshteh Rajabi Kouchi

Boise State University

“Additive manufacturing of colloidal nanocrystal inks for in-space manufacturing of advanced sensors and energy harvesters”


Second place

Samantha Rawlins

University of Alabama in Huntsville

“Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Test Optimization Through Reliability-Driven Design”


Engineering/Undergraduate Division


First place

Aryan Waghmode

Johns Hopkins University

“Development of radioprotective bio-coatings via metal-doping of melanin nanoparticles”


Second place

Rodrigo Romero

Iowa State University

“TALIN: Multi-surface Anchoring Mechanism for Extravehicular Activities and Robotic Exploration”



David Cook

Jim Steele