Two UCF doctoral candidates are being recognized for their efforts in advancing human space exploration.
NASA awarded Yuen Yee Li Sip a three-year fellowship to support her research project on improving the durability of metals in space, and Elizabeth Barrios was recently honored by the Space Education and Outreach Committee of the International Astronautical Federation for her work in developing new thermoelectric materials.
Sip will look at ways to incorporate metal nanoparticles, or nanoporous coating, into various materials such as metals used for the construction of aerospace technology and vehicles. This coating has the potential to enhance the durability of these metals.
She will be utilizing the nanoparticles from metals such as copper and silver, known to be resistant to bacterial growth, as a backup layer of protection for the nanoporous coating. Lubricant infusion will further enhance the material by preventing bacterial buildup. Presence of biofilms in spaceflights can be dangerous and can result in corrosion of material.
Her study is “Lubricant-Impregnated and Antimicrobial Nanoparticle-Loaded Nanoporous Surfaces for Biofilm Prevention.” The second-year doctoral student is conducting her research with Lei Zhai at UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center.
“It is another way to quench my curiosity to learn more about the things we have and can create,” she says. “I hope to always be doing that.”
Sip will have the opportunity to work at the NASA Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center as well as network with NASA scientists.
Barrios, who finishes her doctorate in Materials Science and Engineering this semester, also works under advisor Zhai to study thermoelectric materials that can use heat to produce electricity — a technology that keeps deep-space exploration vehicles, such as the Mars rovers and deep-space probes, working for long periods of time.
She was presented with the Luigi G. Napolitano Award last month. NASA accepts candidates worldwide and only one scientist under 30 years of age is chosen annually on the basis of their contribution to the advancement of aerospace science.
NASA also recognized her potential in 2016 by awarding Barrios a Space Technology Research Fellowship. The award recognizes graduate students who show potential to contribute to NASA’s goal of creating innovative space technologies for the nation’s science, exploration and economic future.
“Every PhD student has a bit of imposter syndrome and being recognized on that international level,” says Barrios. “The new recognition was a “confirmation that I was doing a good job in what I love.”
“We are very proud of our students’ achievements,” says Zhai, “UCF is a major university that is a major contributor to the aerospace industry. We are pleased to see our students’ hard work is rewarded.”