Aerospace Research Blasts Off at N.C. Central PDF Print E-mail
By Ashley Roque -- Black College Wire   

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has granted N.C. Central University a five-year, $5 million grant to establish NASA-CADRE, a center for aerospace research and education at NCCU.

The grant comes on top of last year’s $5 million National Science Foundation grant given to fund CREST, a computational center for fundamental and applied science at the University.

Neka Jones/CampusEcho
Prof. Vlahovic, grad student Ajayi
Branislav Vlahovic, an NCCU physics professor, is the man behind the money that funds the research centers, both of which he directs.

“With this grant NCCU will be developing strong research that will be used by NASA,” said Vlahovic.

The aerospace research center brings together 17 professors and researchers from NCCU, NASA and associated university departments, including the Jefferson National Laboratory, Cornell University and Duke University.

According to Vlahovic, the grant will fund research “to meet technological challenges of the NASA science mission directorate.”

The research focus of the center is to develop advanced devices and materials, sensors and detectors, and generate fundamental and applied science and engineering research.

The devices and materials also will be used to improve the resolution capability of optical instruments such as cameras, microscopes and telescopes.

The sensors are used to detect different elements, molecules, and compounds — like hydrogen and ammonia — on other planets and across the universe.

Vlahovic said much of the funding will support undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students at NCCU.

Funding will be granted to students for tuition, housing and research.

Overall, undergraduates will receive $110,000 in support, graduates $280,000, and post-docs $145,000.

Last year’s computational center CREST grant funded $250,000 for undergraduate and graduate students and $160,000 for postdoctoral students.

The massive grant has NCCU’s physics students excited.

“The grant provides Central with the opportunity to expand the physics program, which in turn continues to elevate NCCU as center of excellence as an HBCU,” said physics graduate student Alan Fisher.

“Many students will choose Central because of the new opportunities this grant will provide.”

Physics graduate student Syed Gilani said, “This is a great opportunity. The grant will give us new technology that will allow me to build operators and do specialized research.”

Physics graduate Todor Antonijevic said, “I think that working for NASA is what every physicist wants. I can’t wait to start.”

Graduate student Joseph Estevez said the NASA grant not only will enhance NCCU’s research reputation, but also will provide facilities that will bring researchers to NCCU.

“Currently, we have to outsource,” said Estevez.

“As research students we have to go to other labs and universities to do a lot of our research. With the NASA grant, we’ll have tools needed to bring students from other universities here.”

Vlahovic’s motivation to capture the NSF and NASA grants is clearly driven by his love for physics.

“Physics gives you an understanding about the world around you and you can understand how everything works from atoms to televisions,” he said.

Ashley Roque writes for the Campus Echo, the North Carolina Central University student newspaper, which originally published this article.

Posted Oct. 09, 2009
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