Montana State engineering student wins top NASA grant

BOZEMAN – A graduate student at Montana State University has been awarded a distinguished grant from NASA. Haley Ketteler, who is expected to graduate later this year with a master’s degree in electrical engineering, will utilize the Space Technology Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue her doctorate in mechanical engineering at MSU.

“Being selected as a NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Fellow is a true mark of distinction,” the space agency wrote to Ketteler. “Because of your exceptional background and potential for research, you have been chosen to develop breakthrough, high-risk, high-reward space technology at an early stage. Your contributions will help make science and space exploration more effective, affordable and sustainable.”

The four-year grant, in support of Ketteler’s project “Electrochemical Impedance Sensors for Microbial Monitoring in Spacecraft Wastewater Systems,” has a maximum value of $84,000 per year, including a stipend, health insurance, tuition and fees and other support.

“It has been my dream to work for NASA since I was a little girl, and this is a wonderful step toward that dream,” Ketteler said. “It is also extremely encouraging that my research interests and questions are supported by established space technology developers who have a clear vision of what is needed in future space technology.”

Ketteler, originally from Pierre, South Dakota, is co-advised by Christine Foreman, professor of chemical and biological engineering, and Stephan Warnat, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering.

“This fellowship is the culmination of years of hard work from Haley, and I am thrilled for her,” Foreman said. “In addition to her academic and research excellence, she is involved in the MSU community, as part of the WISE leadership team and as a volunteer with FIRST Robotics. I look forward to the opportunities this will provide for Haley to more fully engage with NASA and realize her dream.”

WISE, or Women in Science and Technologyis a student-led group that supports graduate students of all genders in science, social sciences, mathematics, and engineering by providing opportunities for both professional and social development.

Ketteler’s research interests include designing and building sensors to detect biofilms in spacecraft water recovery systems, such as on the International Space Station. Water reclamation systems recycle and treat wastewater produced by astronauts and other sources. Their plumbing and machinery are fertile ecosystems for microbial life that can form biofilms – potentially harmful communities of microbes that produce a protective slime that makes them difficult to kill or remove.

“In many future spacecraft, part of the operational procedure will involve putting life support systems into a quiescent state when no astronauts are on board. So we need a way to autonomously monitor the amount of biofilm in these systems to prevent system failures when they come from space. dormancy. That is where the sensors I am working on come into play,” says Ketteler.

Warnat praised Ketteler’s work ethic and curiosity.

“Haley is an exceptional student, the kind you would love to have in your laboratory,” Warnat said. “Her diligent work ethic is matched only by her insatiable intellectual curiosity, as evidenced by her thought-provoking questions. And this is just the beginning of her journey in graduate studies.

As part of her fellowship, Ketteler will travel to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to test biofilm sensors in the model systems available at the facility.

“Depending on how the testing goes, I may continue with annual visits to MSFC or visit other centers working on the life support systems to explore more applications of the sensors and research being done at the various NASA facilities,” she said . – Montana State University

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