Shooting for the Stars
Anthony Pang (City College, 2011), who will study spacecraft propulsion at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is one of five CUNY students to win 2011 awards under the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. It is geared to assuring the vitality and diversity of America’s scientific and engineering workforce. Pang received an NSF grant of $121,500 over three years. He will work toward a doctorate with MIT professor Manuel Martinez-Sanchez on plasma dynamic simulations for space thrusters. Already offered a fully paid research assistantship for the project, Pang will develop simulations for both plasma thrusters and ionospheric interactions with spacecraft. “Long distance, interplanetary space exploration missions are most viable with advanced plasma propulsion engines and, as such, it is a priority to expand our understanding of the field,” Pang said. Martinez-Sanchez, director of the MIT Space Propulsion Laboratory (SPL), has pioneered the development of radio-frequency propulsion systems and is known for research on Hall thrusters and electrospray propulsion. “With time and extensive effort, Martinez-Sanchez’s work could make the Mars mission a reality,” Pang said.
As a City College undergraduate, Pang has already ventured toward space with Professor Charles Watkins, for two years working on CUNY’s multicampus “cubesat” program. In this NASA initiative, students design small but very real satellites that the space agency launches during its big-science missions; he worked on the structures, mechanisms and thermal control subsystem team. Earlier, he worked on robotics with professor Jizhong Xiao, then joined a student initiative to modify a Lister diesel engine to run on biofuel made from the oil-rich seeds of the jatropha plant.
Last summer he did computer modeling at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as part of research into the movement of polar and Greenland ice sheets. “We looked at how the propagation of meltwater from ice sheets affects lubrication under the ice sheets and accelerates the process; the faster the ice sheets move, the faster they become icebergs, melt and cause the sea to rise,” he said.
As a Colin Powell Fellow and president of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, Pang initiated and is still involved in a community outreach program where undergraduates teach engineering classes at the High School for Math, Science and Engineering on the City College campus.