Photo of Caleigh Schmidt

Summer Program Offers Climate and Space Research Activities to Students Across the US

A diverse group of students attended the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs PICASSO and SPACE at University of Michigan Climate and Space in the summer.

Undergraduate students from across the United States joined the University of Michigan Department of Climate and Space during the summer months for the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. With two distinctive programs sponsored by the National Science Foundation, students had the opportunity to conduct research in the areas of climate and space sciences and engineering.

The first program provides opportunities to diverse groups of students in the Program In Climate and Space Science Observation (PICASSO) REU. A second program provides opportunities to diverse students in the Space-Related Preparation and Awareness for Career Equity (SPACE) REU. With support from the National Science Foundation, the Research Experience for Undergraduates expands access to education and careers in these fields.

“I’m proud to be working with a great group of undergraduates from across the country, as part of the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates program,” said Dr. Frank Marsik, who led the program.

Not only did the students participate in tours, learn about U-M research facilities, and conduct their own research projects, but they also gave back to the community, volunteering their time with the local Food Gatherers program. During the culmination of the program, students presented their research to faculty, staff, students, and the broader university community during a poster session held in the Climate and Space Research Building on North Campus.

The participating students included:

  • Madelyn Noll, College of Wooster (PICASSO)
  • Connor Seto, Harvey Mudd College (PICASSO)
  • Natalie Burton, Scripps College (PICASSO)
  • Ana Castaneda, University of Texas-Dallas (PICASSO)
  • Caleigh Schmidt, St. Olaf College (PICASSO)
  • Kyle Dailey, University of Delaware (PICASSO)
  • Samuel Wingert, University of Wisconsin (PICASSO)
  • Joshua Crain, CA Polytechnic University (PICASSO)
  • Neri Schizas, Inter-American University (SPACE)
  • Sigfrido Cabrera, Inter-American University (SPACE)

Sigfrido Cabrera participated in the SPACE program, coming to the University of Michigan from Inter-American University in Puerto Rico. He researched the challenges that come with developing CubeSats, or small satellites, for space studies, and how this relates to power generation and power consumption, in a project called “GTDM CubeSat Electric Power System.”

“Everyone was so open. The professors were so helpful.” said Cabrera. “It was amazing to see everything here at the University of Michigan. It was a great experience.”

Cabrera said he was grateful for the opportunity to conduct meaningful research on real issues in the space sciences, which helped him better understand the field of space engineering, too. He had a vision for the next phase for his project, and he said he hopes to get more involved in sciences and engineering in the future.

Photo of Caleigh Schmidt
Caleigh Schmidt, from St. Olaf College, presents her research at the conclusion of the REU PICASSO program. Photo by Frank Marsik.

Caleigh Schmidt, who participated from St. Olaf College in Minnesota, said the program opened up a new world to her. For her project, she studied “Recurrent Structures in the Solar Wind,” which involves studying space weather, or the weather that is created by the forces of the sun and the magnetic field in outer space.

She felt privileged to conduct research as an undergraduate using the cutting-edge labs and facilities at the University of Michigan — facilities that are not always available at smaller liberal arts colleges. Schmidt participated in the PICASSO program, and she was impressed by how accessible the faculty made themselves during her research project.

“This experience was eye-opening,” said Schmidt. “After participating in the REU program, I feel like I can actually do this. I know that I have what I need to conduct my own research, and I can see a path forward for myself in the space sciences and scientific research.”


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