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Whether it’s solving the world’s biggest problems or investigating the potential of novel discoveries, researchers at UCF are on the edge scientific breakthroughs that aim to make an impact. Through the Research in 60 Seconds series, student and faculty researchers condense their complex studies into bite-sized summaries so you can know how and why Knights plan to improve our world.

Name: Jillian Gloria
Major: Aerospace engineering

Why are you interested in this research?
JG: As an engineering student, my education is more focused on spacecraft design or high-speed aerodynamics. I am rarely exposed to the chemical or physical evolution of things in space like solar radiation effects or planetary body formation, which are more physics or astronomy based. However as space nerd, someone who is fascinated by regolith (“dirt” on bodies in space), and who intends to get her Ph.D. in planetary science one day, the chance to take part in space-weathering studies as an undergraduate feels like an early Christmas present.

How did you get started in research at UCF?
JG: I started my research while I was still a student at Valencia College through the Physics Research Exchange Program (PREP), a funded 10-week summer partnership program between the Department of Physics at the UCF and participating DirectConnect to UCF campuses. It provides students with exposure to otherwise inaccessible, cutting-edge research opportunities across several areas of physics and direct mentorship experiences. I impressed my mentor so much that he let me continue my research even after my program’s completion.

Who is your mentor? Who inspires you and how?
JG: My mentor is Dr. William Kaden who specializes in surface science through the physics department at UCF. His mentorship has made such a profound impact on me not just as a researcher, but as an engineering student too. I never thought that my first design project would come out of a research position, yet alone research within the physics department. However, Dr. Kaden made it happen.

That is one of the characteristics that makes him an extraordinary mentor, he actively seeks to learn more about his students’ skills and interests and then offers them specific opportunities to develop them further. It is truly inspiring to work alongside someone who doesn’t just listen to your career goals but provides you the direction and support you need to accomplish them. I am so fortunate to have started my research journey with Dr. Kaden as a mentor. He inspires me to do better and be better in my academic career, but more importantly he inspires me to become a mentor of value just like he has been. I know firsthand the power of support, and I look forward to the day I receive the opportunity to shape minds and lead with purpose the way that he has.

How does UCF empower you to do your research?
JG: UCF’s credibility and size attract the crowd of brilliant faculty which in turn, are awarded unbelieve grants to investigate almost any topic you can think of. I think that is the biggest card at play here. Having options leads to a pool of students who can participate in cutting-edge research and that ultimately fosters a network of advanced, fast-thinking researchers. I am constantly learning about new and exhilarating research opportunities from students in my class or whom I am friends with, which makes me want to do more in my current program. The energy at UCF is empowering and has given me the confidence to take part in these exciting opportunities available, like conducting NASA-funded research or working for the German Aerospace Center investigating next generation propulsion capabilities for hypersonic suborbital and reusable space vehicles and power generation systems.

Why is this research important?
JG:  We can’t live on Earth forever, whether we run out of resources or experience global extinction. That is why expanding our presence into space is vital for the survival of our species and this research has the potential to guide NASA in its ultimate mission of sending humans to live and work on the moon for good. Like the video says, water is essential to life as we know it. Understanding where the water is on the moon, what kind of water it is, and how it behaves under influence from the sun throughout a lunar day ultimately dictates where we will set up permanent habitats.

Written by Nicole Dudenhoefer for UCF Today.