University of Alaska researchers receive funding for space-related work

The surface of Venus.
This image of the surface of Venus was originally produced by the NASA Solar System Visualization project and the Magellan science team at the JPL Multimission Image Processing Laboratory in 1991.

University of Alaska engineering faculty members Il Sang Ahn and Getu Hailu have each received $300,000 awards from the National Science Foundation to fund research and development of technologies that would aid in space exploration.

Ahn, with the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Engineering and Mines, will investigate noise-canceling techniques to reduce wind interference while taking seismic data readings on Venus.

Hailu, with the University of Alaska Anchorage College of Engineering, will research erosive wear of 3D printed ceramic products. 

Ahn and Hailu were among 10 fellows who received funding from the NSF Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, under a program intended to boost early-career scientists. The 10 fellows will each visit a NASA research facility to further their research.

Ahn will conduct his research at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio, where he will simulate Venusian atmospheric conditions. 

Whether Venus is seismically active is one of the science objectives of NASA’s Seismic and Atmospheric Exploration of Venus lander mission. This understanding would inform scientists about the conditions on the surface on Venus, add insight into the evolution of Venus and our solar system and compare to existing knowledge of Earth’s seismicity. 

Hailu and an undergraduate researcher will collaborate on their 3D printing project with researchers at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. 

The 3D printing technique — known as additive manufacturing — allows parts to be created for vehicles in space. The technology involves building an object by depositing layers of material, guided by a digital 3D model. Understanding how these materials wear over time will inform improved design.

NSF EPSCoR supports research and development in states that receive disproportionately less NSF funding. The program builds research capacity and infrastructure, as well as strengthens workforce development and science, technology, engineering and math education.  

Ahn and Hailu received EPSCoR’s Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-4 Research Fellows awards. They provide an opportunity for early-career researchers to visit and collaborate at other research centers for two years.

ADDITIONAL CONTACT: Kate Avery,, 907-474-5414