Kira Hart Awarded NASA FINESST Fellowship

    Date Posted: 
    Tuesday, June 9, 2020

    The Wyant College is proud to share that Ph.D. student, Kira Hart, was selected to receive a competitive NASA FINESST Fellowship in the Earth Science division. Hart's winning proposal is titled "High-altitude balloon demonstration and observations with a novel LWIR spectropolarimeter for future CubeSat applications" and she is mentored by Dr. Meredith Kupinski (PI on the project) and Dr. Russell Chipman (Co-PI), as well as collaborator Dr. Dong Wu from Goddard Spaceflight Center. This work has also benefitted from the expertise and collaboration from Dr. Chang Jin Oh and the Optical Fabrication & Engineering Facility. Over the course of three years Hart will receive $135,000 for the project. Future Investigator grants are for student-designed research projects that contribute to NASA's science, technology, and exploration goals. More information about the FINESST program can be found here.

    Hart's proposal emerging from the Wyant College Polarization Lab, presents a prototype polarimeter which targets the measurement of cirrus ice clouds. Developed for CubeSat deployment in partnership with NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center as a part of the SWIRP project, this novel instrument is less than 10 cm in length! In the fellowship application Hart proposes the first flight of the InfraRed Channeled Spectro-Polarimeter (IRCSP) instrument. Once deployed, the IRCSP will be the first to produce measurements of polarized light scattered from ice-clouds in the thermal infrared. This is important due to the lack of precise knowledge of cloud ice and how it contributes to the Earth's radiation budget.

    To demonstrate the polarimeter, Hart has received funding to deploy the IRCSP on a high altitude balloon. In addition to ice cloud measurements, the instrument will provide insight into other potential applications  such as ocean and landmass monitoring. Hart and her mentors​ hope that this work will open the door for new frontiers in LWIR spectro-polarimetric remote sensing, and improve our understanding of our planet.

    Congratulations, Kira! We cannot wait to hear more about this exciting project and where it will take you!

    Read more about Kira when she was featured in Another Wavelength.