By Sarah Logan
The following news piece appeared in the September 2019 edition of The Campus.
The previous July marked the 50th anniversary of the historic moon landing. The City College of New York (CCNY) also gained fame during the same month by receiving a three million-dollar grant from NASA, which will assist in launching future space exploration efforts. The funds will be used to create and establish the ‘Center for Advanced Batteries for Space’, right here at CCNY. The establishment will be directed by Dr. Robert J. Messinger, who doubles as a faculty member of the CUNY Energy Institute, and an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the Grove School.
The award is a three-year grant funded by NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). The grant seeks to educate the next generation of STEM students for careers in: aeronautics research, human exploration, general space operations, and developing space technology. With this grant, CCNY will collaborate with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), as well as Northeastern University.
What does this mean for us, as students of CCNY? Along with the establishment of a new battery program, students from both City College and Northeastern University are now able to pursue several opportunities to become involved in an exchange program. The opportunity features an internship at NASA’s JPL, as well as the opportunity to attend an undergraduate summer research program held at CCNY, featuring students from Hostos and Bronx’s community college.
This collaboration between the colleges will allow CCNY students to learn, and eventually take part in the creation of making powerful batteries that will be used by NASA in future space missions. In a press release submitted by CCNY, Dr. Messinger stated that the new center “will not only develop next-generation batteries to enable entirely new mission concepts in planetary science, but also train a highly skilled, diverse STEM workforce in electrochemical energy storage, an area of strategic importance for NASA and the nation.” With this new partnership, students at CCNY will be given the chance to study different scientific fields that have never once been offered at City College. Dr. Messinger also added that JPL, Northeastern University, and CCNY will each bring their institution’s most brilliant individuals, who will help guide the project.
One of CCNY’s engineering students believes that the new center will not only advance the study of space engineering, but can potentially assist with automotive engineering as well. David Kim Chi, a senior mechanical engineering student at CCNY, is a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). “I feel like [the center] could really align with our club goals,” he noted. The SAE anticipates on building a formula racing car within the next few years. Formula racing is among the many forms of automotive racing in the country that features single-seater vehicles. Moreover, each car is completely unique as they are custom-built.
As the center continues to excel and expand, so will the dreams and ideas of its students. Chi elaborated on his hopes for the future of the center, and how it will allow him to flourish within his own field of study. “Personally, I want to pursue battery technologies, and though I have gotten into mechanical engineering, I really enjoy the problems that electrical engineers have to face,” he said. The center will also be vital to Chi’s future career path. It will enable him to challenge himself, as well as contribute to the success of the SAE.
In addition to Dr. Messinger and his expertise, Drs. Elizabeth Biddinger, Alexander Couzis, and Sanjoy Banerjee— all professors of chemical engineering—will help lead the new center as collaborators. The center will be run by these mentors, who will educate students on how to create space batteries. Dr. Banerjee, director of the CUNY Energy Institute, recently received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2019 Green Chemistry Challenge Academic Award for his and his partners’ development of reusable batteries that promote green chemistry.
In all, the Center for Advanced Batteries for Space promises high hopes for CCNY’s engineering students. Whether they are striving to build race cars, develop space batteries, or something in between, this brand-new educational center will allow young scientists to work with NASA and work on futuristic technologies.