Through the NASA fellowship, she’ll study liquid methane. This fuel tends to elicit better performance, costs less to produce, and creates less soot than kerosene-based fuels. However, the fuel can only contain trace amounts of impurities before its chemical kinetic and ignition properties are changed. Through both the facilities at NASA Marshall and at UCF, she’ll investigate these properties and compare them to those found in natural gas and other methane-based fuels. The goal is to create an industrywide purity standard for low-cost, aerospace-grade liquid methane that improves upon the military’s standard, which is conservative and only pertains to certain grades of the propellant.

Baker believes that having access to NASA’s scientists and facilities will allow her to make significant strides in her research. After graduation, she plans to launch a career in the field of rocket propulsion and hopes to work for a cutting-edge organization like NASA one day.

This isn’t Baker’s first research experience. As an undergraduate student, she participated in the International Research Experience for Students, sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation. She says she chose UCF in part because of its location.

“UCF is centered right near the Space Coast and offers so many industry and research opportunities,” Baker says. “I decided to continue on to my graduate degree here because I made connections with peers and mentors that truly encouraged my growth and drove me to want to learn and develop new skills. UCF has been my home for the last five years and I’m looking forward to continuing my degree here.”