USI students partner with NASA on special project

USI Students work with NASA's JPL
Published: Jul. 5, 2023 at 10:41 PM CDT
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VANDERBURGH CO., Ind. (WFIE) - Students from the University of Southern Indiana are back from a unique summer trip to California.

They partnered with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California to build a light amplifier. It can only be seen under a microscope, but it could lead to a revolution in terahertz astronomy.

“Last summer the Jet Propulsion Laboratory out in Pasadena contacted me with a project that they really wanted to get students involved with,” said Dr. Jenna Kloosterman, assistant professor of engineering and physics at USI.

Six USI students partnered with NASA to build the light amplifier.

“Its about 25,000 times higher in frequency than an AM radio,” Kloosterman said.

“We had to somehow get this beam of light from the source, to the metasurface and then to the detector,” said rising USI senior Kassidon Hatfield.

“If it works this could revolutionize the way that we build receivers,” said Kloosterman.

Early signs point to success, but Dr. Kloosterman says it’s too soon to tell how well the amplifier worked.

Still, the trip was a valuable learning experience for the students, working with some of the top engineers in the world, and touring JPL’s facility.

“It was pretty cool, it was really interesting getting to talk with them and get a feel for what their day to day looks like,” Hatfield said.

“The students realized that these things happen in teams, and they were a team too, and they made something really great happen as a team,” Kloosterman said.

The team spent a week in California, before returning home in June. They say they spent a whole semester working on the amplifier.