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Stellar goals set for Alaska Space Grant Program

Submitted by Amy Hartley
Phone: 907-474-5823

10/17/08

Electrical engineer Denise Thorsen has been selected as director-elect of the Alaska Space Grant Program.

Thorsen says she plans to expand the statewide space-education program to reach more students across the state. Her vision is to promote the existing Space Grant programs, while laying a foundation for further growth. Such plans could bolster interest in aerospace-related industries that may bring economic development to Alaska.

"I have long been interested in creating a pipeline of students interested in the engineering of complex instruments and the science that those instruments can address," Thorsen said. "The Alaska Space Grant Program is a natural vehicle that can be used to create that pipeline."

Thorsen, an associate professor of electrical engineering in the Computer and Electrical Engineering Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has worked in collaboration with the Space Grant program and former director Neal Brown for several years. In addition, she recently became faculty advisor for the Alaska Student Rocket Project, which she hopes to expand by including satellite design. Under Thorsen's direction, the rocket program will launch its fifth student sounding rocket from Poker Flat Research Range in January 2009. The student rocket will measure plasma and geomagnetic structures of ionosphere and ozone density at high altitude.

"The rocket's payload is an international collaboration between students and faculty at UAF and at two Japanese universities: Tokai University and Toyama Prefectural University," Thorsen said.

As director of the Alaska Space Grant Program, a half-time position, Thorsen will oversee nearly $1 million in grants and contracts and manage the NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, known as NASA EPSCoR. She will continue to teach electrical engineering at UAF.

CONTACT: Denise Thorsen, Alaska Space Grant Program director: 907-474-7052, ffdt@uaf.edu

ON THE WEB: www.uaf.edu/asgp/