2019 JHU Physics Fair

The weather cooperated! And we had a good turnout for the 16th Annual Physics Fair at JHU, sponsored in part by MDSGC, which was held from 11-5:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 27th, 2019. Each year during the Physics Fair, the Bloomberg Center for Physics & Astronomy on JHU’s Homewood Campus (click here for directions) is open to the public and hosts activities, competitions, shows, and many hands-on physics demonstrations to intrigue the mind and delight the senses. This family-friendly STEM event is especially designed to inspire future scientists. We hope you can join us next year!

If you attended this year and haven’t already done so, we encourage you to fill out this brief survey to let us know what you think! As always, you can find more information to stoke your scientific curiosity at the Physics Fair Links page.

2019 JHU Physics Fair poster

Scholarship Applications

The regular deadline for Fall 2019-Spring 2020 scholarship applications was May 15, 2019. For information about the program and to submit a late application, visit our Scholarships page. Priority is given to eligible returning students, but new applications can always be considered, contingent on the availability of funds.

Current scholarship recipients: if you are looking for the awardee information form, it is here.

NASA and ISS Videos

Aurora over Scandinavia at night from the International Space Station.

Watching live coverage of the successful NASA Mars Insight landing yesterday reminded us of some other excellent space videos we’ve seen lately.

Here’s one to mark NASA’s 60th anniversary. Like science fiction, but real:

Also celebrating an anniversary recently, in this case its 20th, was the International Space Station (ISS). A long sequence of Earth from orbit, with some landmarks identified:

As long as we’re on the topic, here’s one more from ISS. An inbound rocket launch:

Hope you enjoy them as much as we did. If you’re curious about the image at the top, click on it to learn more!

Next RockOn Workshop – Summer 2019

RockOn, a workshop at Wallops Flight Facility for sounding rocket payload design, is an exciting chance for teams of students to kickstart payload projects at their home institutions. Participants in the workshop will build a working scientific payload and then see it launch on a real sounding rocket!

MDSGC strongly encourages Maryland teams or individuals to apply for support to participate in RockOn, which is hosted by our colleagues at the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia. The 2019 workshop dates will be June 14-21, 2019. Discounted early registration was available until March; generally we expect all slots to fill earlier so don’t delay.

Maryland teams or individuals planning to attend or interested for a future year should contact Matt Collinge for details or with any questions.

Summer Internship Proposals

MDSGC invites proposals to support summer internships and student research projects at Maryland institutions. Prospective mentors (typically, faculty at educational institutions) who have not previously applied for MDSGC funds are especially encouraged to apply.

Projects may be in any STEM area with relevance to NASA’s missions or future workforce needs. Preference will be given to proposals with strong NASA connections, including collaboration with NASA scientists or engineers, research associated with past, present or future NASA missions, and general aerospace or space science relevance. A typical proposal will request support for 1-2 students. This opportunity is primarily intended for undergraduate level students, but proposals to support high-school or graduate interns, or a larger cohort of students, may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

For priority consideration for the upcoming summer, proposals must be submitted to mdsgc@jhu.edu no later than mid-January; the first awards are issued in early February. Late proposals will be considered on a rolling basis subject to availability of funding.

Rules and restrictions:

  • Students receiving direct funding through this program must be U.S. citizens.
  • Students supported through this program will be required to:
    • Present their work at the MDSGC symposium in late July/early August in Baltimore;
    • Complete an exit survey at the end of the project;
    • Agree to participate in MDSGC longitudinal tracking.
  • Depending on oversubscription rate and funding constraints, MDSGC may limit awards to no more than 2 students per institution.

Required proposal elements:

  1. Mentor qualifications — Brief description of professional qualifications and past mentorship experience.
  2. Project description — No more than one page about each project and its relevance to NASA.
  3. Student recruitment plan — If specific students have already been identified, briefly describe how they were recruited and their qualifications. We especially encourage proposals with recruitment targeted at women and members of underrepresented minorities.
  4. Student learning goals and timeline — Examples: programming languages, analysis techniques, specialized topical knowledge, intermediate milestones in project completion.
  5. Mentoring plan/evaluation — How often student and primary mentor will meet; peer mentoring/group participation; what feedback will be provided to the student. Criteria for overall project and student success.
  6. Deliverables/expected results — Include plan for presenting results and/or incorporating into publications.
  7. Budget — Preference will be given to proposals that incorporate significant non-federal match (e.g., university, state, corporate, or private funds), including in-kind contributions (e.g., mentor’s contributed time), and for which MDSGC funds are used primarily to support student stipends. Up to $500 may be budgeted, per intern, for materials (if needed; please describe). Please see NASA internship stipend guidelines in the table below. Students supported through this program will also be eligible to apply to MDSGC for travel support to present their work at a meeting within the following calendar year. Funds for such travel may but need not be built into the proposal budget. 

NASA Internship Stipend Levels (effective Fall 2018)
Fall and Spring (16 weeks)
Full-time graduate: $14,400
Full-time undergrad: $11,680
Summer (10 weeks)
Full-time graduate: $9,000
Full-time undergrad: $7,300

Please contact MDSGC Deputy Director Matt Collinge with any questions.

Quaternions Turn 175

Plaque on Broom (Brougham) Bridge in Ireland commemorating Hamilton's discovery of quaternions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018, is the one hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary of the discovery of quaternions, one of the most difficult discoveries ever in the history of mathematical physics.  The discovery was made — in a sudden moment of inspiration following 11 years of studious toil — by Sir William Rowan Hamilton as he was crossing Brougham Bridge, in Ireland, with his wife.  On the spot, or so it is said, he carved his famous equations on the bridge.

Some years later, Hamilton recalled:

They started into life, or light, full grown, on the 16th of October, 1843, as I was walking with Lady Hamilton to Dublin, and came up to Brougham Bridge.  That is to say, I then and there felt the galvanic circuit of thought closed, and the sparks which fell from it were the fundamental equations between I, J, K; exactly such as I have used them ever since.  I pulled out, on the spot, a notebook, which still exists, and made an entry….

Although Hamilton’s original inscription does not survive, the plaque shown above hangs on the bridge to this day in commemoration both of Hamilton’s discovery and of his sudden inspiration. The plaque reads:

Here as he walked by
on the 16th of October 1843
Sir William Rowan Hamilton
in a flash of genius discovered
the fundamental formula
for quaternion multiplication
i2 = j2 = k2 = i j k = -1
& cut it on a stone of this bridge

Here’s to Hamilton, to quaternions, to bridges, and to inspiration!

Student Research Symposium

Group photo of student participants in MDSGC Student Research Symposium 2018. Photo credit: Will Kirk, JHU Homewood photography.

The 2018 MDSGC Student Research Symposium, held Saturday, July 28, showcased presentations by more than 40 student interns and researchers working at sites across Maryland. Topics ranged from rocket payloads to black holes to detecting bio-signatures in desert rocks. Institutions represented included Capitol Technology University, Goddard Space Flight Center, Hagerstown Community College, Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, the United States Naval Academy, University of Maryland Baltimore County, University of Maryland College Park, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The full program can be found here.

MDSGC congratulates all participants on a productive summer and looks forward to more of their successes in the future!

All participants and attendees are invited to submit feedback on the symposium here.