Request for Pre-Proposals


In anticipation of the upcoming FY 2022 NASA Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) release, NASA WV EPSCoR Committee invites pre- proposals from eligible faculty for the FY 2022 NASA EPSCoR Research Program.

The timeline for pre-proposal submission is as follows:

  • September 27, 2021– Notice of Intent (optional). To track interest, if you plan to submit a pre-proposal, please enter your information on the google form located at:
  • October 18, 2021 – All pre-proposals must be submitted to NASA WV EPSCoR via email to Please note that a detailed budget is not required for this submission.
  • All pre-proposals must specify exactly the area of interest your proposal addresses. Listed here-you will find the FY 2022 Areas of Research Interests, listing research topics / priorities from all NASA centers and mission directorates.

Lightweight Authentication Protocol for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Cong Pu

Assistant Professor

Marshall University

Department of Computer Sciences and Electrical Engineering

Marshall University, Department of Computer Sciences and Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor, Dr. Cong Pu, received an EPSCoR Research Seed grant for his work entitled “Lightweight Authentication Protocol for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.”

With the continuous miniaturization of electronic devices and the recent advancement in wireless communications, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), often referred to as drones, will find many new uses in people’s production and life, bringing great convenience to the public. For over 40 years, drones or similar robots have been a part of NASA’s fleet and range from full-scale solar-powered versions to those using electric motors or propellers. As the proliferation of drones and the flourishing of drone-related applications, Internet of Drones (IoD), a layered network control architecture designed mainly for coordinating the access of drones to controlled airspace, is moving into the fast lane. Meanwhile, the security and privacy of IoD is gaining significant attention due to both financial and strategic information and value involved in aerial applications. Regrettably, traditional secure communication protocols and techniques cannot be directly adopted for IoD systems because of the intrinsic resource constraints of drones and the open nature of wireless communication medium.

Marshall University undergraduate student Andrew Wall is implementing the security protocol in the Drone Laboratory that is directed by Dr. Cong Pu (Dept. of CS, Marshall University), a recipient of a NASA West Virginia EPSCoR Research Seed Grant.

The main objective of this project is to develop a lightweight mutual authentication protocol to secure communications between UAVs and ground station in the IoD environment. The core scientific contributions of this research effort will be the design and implementation of a lightweight security protocol for IoD environment. We focus on unique constraints of drones, such as processing power, memory, and energy, as well as potential extensibility and flexibility of security protocol which is important for easy integration with communication protocols. This research will also have important implications for other cryptographic systems in robotics and will provide design considerations to the broader cryptographic and robotics community seeking new research directions.

Developed drone platform with DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone, ADALM Pluto Software Defined Radio, Latte Panda development board, micro GPS circuit, power bank bounded together with 3D-printed plastic holder.
Developed real-world testbed, where drone and ground station will first mutually authenticate each other and establish a secure session key before sharing any critical information.

Genomics of high altitude adaptation in Andean horses

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Sher Hendrickson
Shepherd University
Department of Biology

EPSCoR research entitled “Genomics of high altitude adaptation in Andean horses”. Most animals are well adapted to living in lowland environments with high oxygen levels, however several organisms, including populations of humans and other resident mountain species have undergone genetic changes that enable them to deal with hypoxia and survival in harsh altitudinal conditions. Understanding how genomes have changed in extreme environments may give us key insights into important physiological pathways. To uncover the genetic adaptations for survival at high altitude, Dr. Hendrickson completed a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) of ~50, 000 known mutations, or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in a model species, the Andean horse. In a comparison of a population of feral horses left by the conquistadors in the high Andes over 500 years ago and horse breeds living at lower elevation, Dr. Hendrickson identified ~155 candidate genes. Dr. Hendrickson deep sequenced four complete horse genomes to validate the functional impact of coding variants on the proteins produced, and identify new variants in candidate genes unique to the high altitude population. Dr. Hendrickson has been developing new analysis pipelines for genome annotation, SNP discovery, functional definition, and comparison of different genomes in a non-human model species.

Results from the project made an impact beyond the bounds of science, engineering, and the academic world: In a time of rapid environmental and climate change, a clear and urgent challenge for conservation and evolutionary biologists is to understand how genetic architecture changes in response to the ecosystem. Dr. Hendrickson collected hair and ear clip samples from the feral horses’ population for genetic analysis during the annual round-up of the wild bands. Local Chagras assisted.

Ultra-Wideband Ranging and Communications to Augment GPS Relative Navigation of UAVs

Principal Investigator
Jason Gross
Assistant Professor
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
West Virginia University

Dr. Jason Gross, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, will receive a two-year, $200,000 grant — with optional funding for a third year —as part of the New Investigator Program. This is the second award this semester for Gross, a Morgantown native, who earned his bachelor ’s and doctoral degrees from WVU in 2007 and 2011, respectively, and previously worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Thanks to an Air Force Office of Scientific Research Summer Faculty Fellowship Program award, he will spend eight weeks during the summer at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright- Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, working on GNSS integrity monitoring. Seed funding for Gross’ work in this area was provided by the Statler College and WV EPSCoR RID and was entitled “Ultra-Wideband Ranging and Communications to Augment GPS Relative Navigation of UAVs”

Dr. Jason Gross with a student, Ryan Watson, testing the experiment.

Designing countermeasures to relieve low back pain among astronauts during space flight

Principal Investigator
Xiaopeng Ning
Assistant Professor
Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering
West Virginia University

Dr. Xiaopeng Ning (left), West Virginia University, Industrial and Management Systems Engineer, helping a human subject perform a simulated fetal-tuck posture; this posture is commonly used by astronauts in space to relieve lower back pain. This research was sponsored by WV EPSCoR RID and was entitled “Understand the effects of fetal tuck position on lumbar spine: designing countermeasures to relieve low back pain among astronauts during space flight.”

Catalytic Hydrogenation with Earth-Abundant Metal Systems

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Joanna Webb

West Virginia Wesleyan College

Department of Chemistry

Hydrogenation reactions have diverse applications in the petrochemical, food, pharmaceutical, and agricultural industries. In addition, the hydrogenation of carbon dioxide to produce liquid fuels has the potential to directly impact the energy sector. A famous homogeneous hydrogenation catalyst, Wilkinson’s catalyst, was reported in the 1960’s and facilitates the conversion of alkenes to alkanes.  Extension to asymmetric hydrogenation of parochial molecules by chiral metal complexes has emerged as a useful synthetic tool for the preparation of single enantiomer molecules.

This research study is designed to explore catalytic hydrogenation with Earth-abundant metal systems (i.e., cobalt) bearing chiral nitrogen-based ligands. Chiral nitrogen-based ligands provide an opportunity to investigate a relatively underexplored area of hydrogenation chemistry. Specifically, chiral cobalt complexes will be synthesized for the investigation of asymmetric hydrogenation reactivity.

Brett Hakey, WV WC, undergraduate research student working with Dr. Joanna Webb.  Brett was a senior during this grant period and is now enrolled as a graduate student at WVU. Brett is pictured here using the NMR at WVU to run samples on the Dr. Webb’s Research Seed Grant entitled “Olefin hydrogenation with transition metal complexes bearing chiral nitrogen-based ligands”

Notashia Baughman, WV Wesleyan College undergraduate research student, working in a nitrogen-filled glovebox on research funded by the NASA EPSCoR Seed grant program.

Acid Deposition and Tree Water Use Efficiency: Comparing Northern Hemisphere Tree-ring Isotope Data with New Measurements from Unpolluted South American Forests

Principal Investigator
Brenden E. Mcneil
Associate Professor
Department of Geology
West Virginia Univeristy

Dr. Brenden E. McNeil, West Virginia University Department of Geology and Geography, was awarded a Research Seed grant entitled “Acid deposition and tree water use efficiency: comparing northern hemisphere tree-ring isotope data with new measurements from unpolluted South American forests”.  The focus of the research study is to analyze atmosphere-biosphere climate modeling activities and how increases in atmospheric CO2 will affect the carbon sink provided by the world’s forests.  His research will provide a powerful baseline for tree-ring δ13C analyses, thereby greatly intensifying the impact of this interdisciplinary research, as well as enhancing its utility for NASA-funded climate modeling efforts.  In 2013, Ms. Evelin Flamenco, a WVU undergraduate student working with Dr. McNeil, applied for and was awarded a scholarship for the Next Generation of Latino Leaders, from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Inc. (CHCI).   In 2015, under Dr. McNeil mentorship, Ms. Flamenco competed for and was awarded an Undergraduate Fellowship to continue her research work on the project “Comparing Tree Species and Canopy Albedo by Measuring Leaf Angle with a UAV”.  She indicated that in her current research that she expects to gain additional skills and knowledge in preparing for Graduate School.

Evelin Flamenco, WVU sophomore geography undergraduate research student, measuring widths of tree-rings for isotopic analysis for Dr. B. McNeil’s Research Seed Grant entitled “Acid deposition and tree water use efficiency: Comparing Northern Hemisphere tree-ring isotope data with new measurements from unpolluted South American forests”.

Chemistry Education and Outreach by Dr. Michael Fultz

Principal Investigator
Michael Fultz
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry
West Virginia State University

By certain accounts Fultz, an associate professor of chemistry at West Virginia State University (WVSU), personally spearheaded more outreach projects during his short six years at WVSU than many do during an entire career – and it shows. The students who write thank you letters to Fultz clearly find great fun and benefit in the science outreach activities that come to them via their K-12 classrooms from WVSU, but it’s Fultz’s undergraduate students who, he knows, gain as much benefit from the experiences. Fultz oversees the student chapter of the American Chemical Society (ACS) at WVSU. He and the group, which annually consists of more than 20 students, regularly take science to kids by hosting educational programs for schools across the Kanawha Valley in West Virginia. These include lectures on topics such as green chemistry, career presentations and science-based, hands-on activities.

Transpiration and water use of several hardwood species in Appalachian forest

Principal Investigator
Dr. Rico M. Gazal
Professor and Chair
Department of Land Resources
Glenville State College

The Appalachian forest is one of the most diverse and productive ecosystems in the northeastern United States. It has been the subject of numerous research studies on watershed management, biodiversity conservation, logging and other silvicultural practices. However, only a few limited studies have attempted to quantify water consumption of mixed hardwood trees and their contribution to forest water balance. Understanding the ability to compete for water resources and the differential utilization of water by plants without the destructive excavation of roots needs to be explored in this ecosystem. The use of sap flow gauges to quantify water use can therefore be indispensable tool in further exploration of the impacts of vegetation communities on the productivity of Appalachian forest. The main objective of this study is to estimate daily and seasonal water use by several mature oak species in a mixed hardwood forest. The study is important in characterizing the contribution of the mixed hardwood trees on the hydrology or water balance of Appalachian forest.

The site selected for this project is a relatively dry site with west facing slope, 30-37% average slope and approximately 300 m in elevation. The sapwood area is an important parameter in scaling the sap flow estimates to total water use. The probe was inserted into the sapwood at a depth of 30 mm using a drill bit and covered with a reflective bubble wrap for insulation.