AFRL Space Scholars Program

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Dziedzic Rafal Small

Graduate student Rafal Dziedzic (Spokoyny lab) selected for the AFRL 2015 Space Scholars Program to work on the development of devices for space vehicles. 

The 1st year Ph.D. student in Prof. Alex Spokoyny’s group will spend the summer doing research as a paid intern at New Mexico’s Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque.  

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Scholars Program is geared towards giving students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) an opportunity to experience research in an Air Force laboratory and to work on projects directly related to promoting national security. 

Rafal was selected for the 2014 scholars program last summer because of his undergraduate research experience in the Chemistry department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Prof. Song Jin’s group doing electrochemistry and nanomaterial synthesis. During that summer he worked on developing reversible electrochemical mirror devices that could operate in space vehicles. “There are several issues with creating space worthy materials,“ Rafal explained. “1) you can’t go to space to fix it so it has to be extremely robust, 2) there is a high flux of high energy radiation and particles that degrade conventional devices, 3) the devices need to withstand the launch conditions as well as the vacuum of space.”

During last summer his research group was able to make enough progress to warrant further funding for the project. Now the project has grown into collaboration between several universities, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Rafal is currently developing ionic liquids based on the chemistry he learned in Prof. Alex Spokoyny’s group with the goal of making robust, space worthy electrochemical devices.

“I’ve always been captivated by space travel and the technology that enables it. Being in the Space Scholars program gives me an opportunity to be at the forefront of space technology,” Rafal said. “It’s also a great time to build connections and collaborations with unlikely partners; and to do great science!”