AMES, IA – Brandon Vance, an Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) undergraduate research fellow and Iowa State University student, recently presented his research at the Posters on the Hill event in Washington, D.C. The event is meant for members of Congress and their staff to learn more about the importance of undergraduate research by speaking directly with student researchers. Vance’s research focuses on the design of catalysts used to convert Mars’ natural resources into rocket fuel.
“I honestly loved presenting my research to the people I interacted with at the event. Practically everyone I talked to was excited and blown away by the work I had done. I felt absolutely joyous during the entire event because traditionally nontechnical individuals were actually investing their time and interest into my research and work,” said Vance.
Vance’s research is incredibly innovative. As space travel advances towards manned missions to Mars, a variety of challenges need to be addressed. One challenge being that it is unrealistic to send enough fuel aboard a spacecraft for a return trip. So, there needs to be a way to replenish the supply by creating fuel. This happens through a process called carbon dioxide methanation where catalysts are used to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas into methane fuel. Vance’s research dives into designing catalysts built to withstand Mars’ temperatures and improve their efficiency.
“The primary source of inspiration for my research is my belief that it is everyone’s duty to leave this world in a better state than when they entered it. I believe that I will have the greatest influence and broadest impact through my endeavors as a catalytic scientist and by communicating those results to a broad audience,” said Vance.
The ISGC has been the primary source of funding for Vance’s undergraduate research. Additionally, through ISGC funding he was able to attend several conferences across the United States to share his research with a variety of audiences.
“In short, I don’t think I would be as successful as I am if it wasn’t for the support from the ISGC,” said Vance.
Vance is one of many students the ISGC is proud to fund and encourage in their STEM education and career pursuits.
The Iowa Space Grant Consortium is a part of NASA’s National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. The ISGC supports aerospace research, education and outreach activities for all Iowans through five program categories: internships/fellowships/scholarships; higher education; research infrastructure; precollege; and informal education. The ISGC carries out its goals with the help of six universities across the state of Iowa, as well as a number of private industry, education and government organizations, and science museums.