Photo of students presenting their posters at the 14th annual Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium student poster competition.

Students present their posters at the 14th annual Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium student poster competition.

Michael Mercier | UAH

University students from across the United States competed in the 14th annual Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium (VBS) student poster competition hosted by The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, on Oct. 12-14.

"This is the third year that the VBS poster competition was open to academic research by students from any university. As a result, we had more than 80 students apply, not only from UAH but also from across the country and internationally,” says Dave Cook, director of undergraduate research for UAH's Office of Academic Affairs.

“We were really excited to have this opportunity for our undergraduate and graduate students to go head-to-head with students from other universities. UAH students captured two of the eight finalist spots, and all the UAH participants did an excellent job representing UAH."

The poster session is an opportunity for 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.

This year, the field of 80 applicants was narrowed to 30 students from across the country who were selected to participate in the competition.

"It was really exciting getting back to a face-to-face poster session after holding the competition virtually last year. You could feel the students’ energy and enthusiasm to present their posters," Cook says.

"Students have an opportunity to explain their research to a team of judges made up of American Astronautical Society (AAS) members. Student poster participants are also able to join VBS symposium sessions and networking events, so it’s really a valuable opportunity for them to improve their communication skills and interact with professionals in the aerospace field."

Again this year, AAS offered the opportunity for one of the poster competition finalists to present their research at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Paris, France, set for Sept. 18-22, 2022. 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 in Paris.

The AAS top pick from last year’s finalists, UAH student Emily Wood, will be attending the IAC in Dubai later this month as part of this opportunity.

"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:


Graduate Division

  • First Place
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Taralicin Deka
  • “Astrodynamics-informed kinodynamic motion planning for relative spacecraft motion”
  • Second Place
  • University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Mitchell Schroll
  • “Computer Vision Analysis of Gas Bubble Flow through Liquid Metal”

Undergraduate Division

  • First Place
  • University of Southern California
  • Lance Mayhue
  • “Characterization of Additively Manufactured Fuel Grains for Hybrid Rocket Engine Applications”
  • Second Place
  • California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
  • Zachary Gaines
  • “Satellite Formation and Control Test Bed for University ADCS Development and Research”

Physical And Liberal Sciences

Graduate Division

  • First Place
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Devin Mair
  • “A Human iPSC-based 3D Microphysiological System for Modeling Cardiac Dysfunction in Microgravity”
  • Second Place
  • University of California, Los Angeles – David Geffen School of Medicine
  • Timothy Liu
  • “Spaceflight-Induced Osteoporosis: Microgravity Effects on Non-Weight-Bearing Bone and Treatment with BP-NELL-PEG”

Undergraduate Division

Tie for First Place
  • First Place
    • University of Alabama in Huntsville
    • Sara Mog
    • “Fiber-Optic Temperature/Heat-Flux Sensor for Future Venus-Landing Missions”
    • University of Florida
    • Tushar Shenoy
    • “Drug Efficacy Testing in Skeletal Muscle Microphysiological System to Develop Spaceflight Countermeasures to Muscle Atrophy”


Dave Cook