CRESST II Graduate Student Project Opportunities at NASA/GSFC


Graduate student projects are available in the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)  Astrophysics Science and Solar System Exploration Division through the Center for Research  and Exploration in Space Science and Technology II (CRESST II) (https://cresst2.umd.edu/). Three NASA sponsors are looking for six graduate students in the fields of astronomy,  astrophysics, physics, and engineering to work on research projects at NASA/GSFC. Interested  graduate students should review the available projects below and follow the instructions to apply. 

Project #1: Gravity Science from Spacecraft Orbit Determination 

The goal of this project is to advance our understanding of the methodology and applications of  the analysis of spacecraft tracking data through orbit determination. Existing tools and radio  tracking measurements acquired by NASA planetary missions will be analyzed to derive  geophysical parameters important to our understanding of planets, moons, and small bodies.  New or improved force and measurement models will be developed to test hypotheses from  recent publications in the literature. Simulation studies will also be performed to assess possible future instrument and mission concepts. The students will be introduced to recent studies at  GSFC, will take charge of a project with guidance, and will grow skills in state-of-the-art  analysis and estimation methods applied to planetary science. Successful candidates should have  some background and/or skills in physics, linear algebra, and programming languages (Python  and/or FORTRAN). 

​The candidates will work with Dr. Erwan Mazarico in the Planetary Geology, Geophysics, and  Geochemistry Laboratory at NASA/GSFC. Funding is available for two students to start work as  soon as May 1, 2021 and will last for a period of 1-2 years, dependent on future funding.  ​

Project #2: X-ray Studies of Normal Galaxies 

Projects are open for the use of Chandra, NuSTAR, XMM and/or other X-ray missions. The  project would involve doing X-ray data analysis to study point source populations (neutron stars  and black holes) as well as the hot interstellar medium in both nearby and distant galaxies. The  student would use both standard tools for X-ray data analysis as well as write code in e.g.,  Python and would be expected to write papers and make presentations on their work. The lab has a group of approximately six Ph.D. scientists working on a range of topics concerning X-ray  emission from normal galaxies. Successful candidates should be proficient with UNIX/LINUX,  computer coding (Python or other languages), writing in Latex, and a willingness to work in a  team.

​The candidate will work with Dr. Ann Hornschemeier in the X-ray Astrophysics Laboratory at  NASA/GSFC. The project is open to one student and the project start date, duration, and possible  funding will all be individually discussed between the candidate and Dr. Hornschemeier. ​

Project #3: Cosmology and Submillimeter Astrophysics 

Students with physics, astronomy, engineering, or computer science backgrounds can play a  major role for flight projects to develop instrumentation and analyze data from balloon-borne  measurements of the cosmic microwave background and the diffuse interstellar medium. Current 

and planned projects include the PIPER measurements of the cosmic microwave background,  AMEX measurements of anomalous microwave emission, Dust Buster measurements of  interstellar dust, and BOBCAT technology development for a future balloon-borne “Great  Observatory”. Successful candidates will have useful skills in some subset of instrumentation,  data analysis, cryogenics, and mechanical engineering, plus a strong desire for hands-on development of flight hardware. Previous students have had backgrounds in physics, astronomy,  or engineering. 

The candidates will work with Dr. Alan Kogut in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at  NASA/GSFC. The project is open to three students and the project start date, duration, and  possible funding will all be individually discussed between the candidate and Dr. Kogut. 

Instructions to Apply 

Applications will be reviewed, and positions will be filled on a rolling basis. Submitting your  application promptly will ensure your application is reviewed while the position is still open. Restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic may require that the successful candidate  work remotely, at least initially. To apply, submit the following materials via email to the  CRESST II Program Associate, Katherine McKee (katherine.s.mckee@nasa.gov): 

• Curriculum Vitae 
• 1–2-page Statement of Research Interests 

For additional information about CRESST II and the graduate student opportunities, contact Katherine McKee.​