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NASA Program Expands Research Participation to Scientists Across the U.S.

When most people think of NASA, they picture mission control in Houston or maybe space shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral in Florida. But Vermont? Puerto Rico? Kansas? Not likely – unless they’re familiar with a little-known, but invaluable, program called EPSCoR – the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

Man attired in lab clothing and classes working with his hands on a metal cylinder.
Graduate student working in the fatigue lab at the National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence (NCAME) to determine the effect of powder feedstock recycling on the fatigue performance of additively manufactured materials.

EPSCoR was created in 1993 to strengthen the research capability in U.S. states and territories that had not previously participated equably in competitive aerospace research activities. In short order, the program formed partnerships with local governments, higher education, and industry to improve and enhance research and development while also providing NASA a larger pool of scientists and researchers with whom to develop new technologies to benefit its space missions and people on Earth.

“We offer four types of research awards that range from a one- to three-year period of performance, and from $100,000 to $750,000 in funding,” said Jeppie Compton, the project manager for NASA EPSCoR. “These small grants are a good introduction to working on projects specific to NASA’s investigational needs and serve as a gateway to begin a long-term working relationship with us.”

Teaming with EPSCoR on the Rapid Response Research program, NASA’s Division of Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications (SLPSRA) provided research topic areas that resulted in five awards across the country – from Charleston, South Carolina, to Wichita, Kansas.

“We’re working hand-in-hand with the EPSCoR program to help us find new scientists who can conduct the research we need to help us pioneer new scientific discoveries,” said Diane Malarik, deputy director of SLPSRA. “The ability to work with NASA is not limited to a few states or a handful of academic institutions. NASA touches the nation’s entire scientific community, and SLPSRA is enthusiastic in working with the expertise available within all EPSCoR jurisdictions.”

A look at the recent awardees illustrates the wide variety of science being conducted around the country:

Causal Multivariate Network Analysis of Multi-Omics Datasets for Therapeutic Treatment of Muscle Atrophy in Mice and Homosapiens in Microgravity

University of Puerto Rico, San Juan

Muscle atrophy is the wasting of muscle tissue that occurs due to aging, genetics, degenerative diseases and injuries. Without mitigation, this condition is common among astronauts exposed to microgravity. Understanding the effects of novel therapies to treat muscle atrophy in mice is essential to providing similar treatments to astronauts, as well as patients affected by this condition on Earth. This project also will provide internship opportunities for Hispanic students in NASA labs, shaping a more diverse STEM workforce for the future.

Impacts of Gravity on Dropwise Condensation-Enhanced Heat Pipes

College of Charleston, South Carolina

Ultrahigh-performance, long, and lightweight heat pipes are critical to future space missions (e.g., human missions to Mars) and, hence, highly desired. In this proposal, condensation sections of heat pipes will be coated with Ni-graphene. Moreover, various wicking structures will be designed to eventually realize rapid droplet removal in a microgravity environment. The gap between the Ni-graphene coated wall and wicking structures will play a critical role in maximizing heat pipe performances. Heat pipes with various wicking structure designs and gaps will be evaluated before, during and after in- drop tower experiments.

Impact of simulated microgravity on potable water bacterial biofilm formation

University of Vermont, Burlington

All human habitation in space will take place in a non-sterile environment, and the multispecies bacterial biofilms in the drinking water are an important source of bacteria to which all astronauts are exposed. This constant exposure to potential bacterial pathogens and the additional roles of biofilms in material corrosion and chemical processes make it imperative that we improve both our understanding of these co-habitants on our space-going vessels, as well as the impact of simulated microgravity on mixed microbial biofilms and community interactions.

Probabilistic Approach to Reverse Engineering of Spaceflight Molecular Networks

Wichita State University, Kansas

In Space Biology there is very little research on space environment-specific molecular networks. The goal of this research is to develop an approach for reconstructing, inferring and analyzing spaceflight molecular networks using data from the NASA GeneLab data system. The broader impacts include advances in understanding of key biological mechanisms that enable biological organisms to thrive in space environments; and training of graduate students in bioinformatic data analysis.

Dusty Plasmas: Space Life and Physical Sciences and Research Apps

University of Alabama, Huntsville

The long-term goals of this research are to develop a comprehensive understanding of dust particle transport over a broad range of experimental conditions that can lead to scaled studies of charged dust transport in environments relevant to lunar and Martian conditions. From these studies, it will be possible to provide a scientific basis for the next generation of remote and human missions on airless and plasma-exposed bodies throughout the solar system.

The following states and territories are eligible to submit a proposal in response to a NASA EPSCoR solicitation: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

EPSCoR Cooperative Agreement Notices (proposal requests) are available at:

Stay informed on other exciting SLPSRA research initiatives at: