Cal State LA has received a $570,000 grant from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to inspire students to participate in NASA research and pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The two-year grant was awarded through NASA’s Bridge Program, which is designed to boost diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within the NASA workforce and within the U.S. science and engineering community.
Through the grant, Cal State LA will collaborate with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Cal Poly Pomona on the project, “Diversifying Student Pipelines in STEM: Environmental Pollution Reduction Inspired by Planetary Science.”
The project is led by principal investigator Arezoo Khodayari, associate professor of civil engineering in the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology at Cal State LA.
“This grant will bring exciting opportunities for our students and our college, and I hope this will lead to inspiring our students and cultivating them to make significant impacts in STEM fields,” said Khodayari. “I’m thankful for all the support from my collaborators.”
Professor Khodayari’s primary area of specialization is in developing sustainable engineering solutions to reduce environmental pollution. She earned her Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
This new project will increase Cal State LA’s research capacity by building sustainable partnerships with collaborators at JPL, while creating multiple research opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students in space-relevant STEM fields.
Cal State LA students will work with planetary science mentors at JPL and be involved in a peer-to-peer mentoring program. There will also be a series of workshops and training that will be designed by the project’s co-investigator at Cal Poly Pomona on best practices for mentoring students from diverse backgrounds.
Khodayari explains that the multidisciplinary research will draw from the study of planetary science to tackle environmental pollution in the communities.
“Some of the major questions that scientists try to answer in planetary science include the conditions and processes conducive to the origin and early evolution of life on Earth, and what they teach us about the possible emergence and evolution of life on other worlds,” she said. “Expanding our knowledge about these conditions and processes could teach us a lot about the principles governing the interconnected system of man and nature — leading to innovative engineering designs.”