Mines News

Release Date Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Mines Students Win Over $100,000 in NASA Funding for Research, Internships and Education

Michael Cyrier, a paleontology graduate student at South Dakota Mines is researching rare microbial life, known as extremophiles, that live deep inside Black Hills caves. The NASA funded research may lend insight to life on other planets.  

South Dakota Mines has 28 students selected by the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium (SDSGC) for scholarship and research funding from NASA. Though Mines is the smallest public university in South Dakota, it had the largest representation of students funded by the SDSGC in 2021. 

Two Mines students received funding to intern with NASA this summer.  

  • Dalton Lund, a graduate student in electrical engineering, is interning with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center assisting with the development of a Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF) propulsion system that has the potential to be used to explore deep space including crewed missions to Mars and beyond. 
  • Kole Pickner, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, is interning with NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center working on a magnetic coupling system for cryogenic fluid transfer. Pickner also works part-time in Mines’ physics department in Dr. David Martinez's research group. He helps design/build calibration and testing equipment for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) that will be constructed at the Sanford Underground Research Facility. The calibration research is funded by the DUNE project and the Department of Energy.   

A third student, Mathew Clutter, a Mines computer science major, is on an internship assisting with a high-altitude ballooning project offered by Montana Space Grant Consortium. 

Mines students are studying a wide range of aerospace and NASA related research topics. Each of these three graduate students received $5,000 research stipends:   

  • Michael Cyrier, a paleontology graduate student, is researching rare microbial life, known as extremophiles, that live deep inside Black Hills caves. The research may lend insight to life on other planets.

  • Kaytie Barkley, a mechanical engineering graduate student, is studying the joining of lightweight composite materials that could be components of future spacecraft.

  • James Gormley, a mechanical engineering graduate student, is working on experimental designs for techniques that can be used to analyze the lunar surface and lunar ice caps.

Twenty-two other Mines students received NASA scholarship funds from the SDSGC to continue their studies. Tom Durkin, Deputy Director of SDSGC, said: “About 96% of our funded students go on to careers in various aspects of science, technology, engineering, and math (i.e., STEM careers) that are essential for the nation’s workforce, and a good number of them end up at NASA or aerospace industry."

The SDSGC is the link between NASA and the citizens of South Dakota. It’s one of many similar programs across the nation established by Congress in 1991 in support of NASA’s Office of Education to maintain the nation’s leadership in aeronautics and space exploration. The SDSGC’s vision is to expand opportunities for all South Dakotans through education, research and public service in the fields of aerospace, earth science and supporting disciplines in STEM.



About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu

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