Archive for March 2017

Research Spotlight: Dr. DeJong

Jameson Horn presenting his work on Dr. Dejong’s research project.

Dr. Anna DeJong has recently received a three year NSF grant to pursue her research based on the role of the Earth’s ionosphere and its effect on the Earth’s magnetosphere, the Earth’s electric field, with a specific focus on the Aurora Borealis.

The magnetosphere and ionosphere are impacted by solar wind, a stream of charged particles coming towards the earth from the sun. The experiment looks at the conductance or how much the aurora allows through it and the makeup of the aurora as seen through satellite imagery directed towards the North Pole. The goal of the experiment is to research how or why the ionosphere changes and impacts the magnetosphere’s ability to maintain a steady state despite similar conditions each time. This is similar to dropping an identical mug multiple times from the same height and yet the mug does not break in the same way every time.

Dr. DeJong is currently working with two students, Jameson Horn, who is pursuing his master’s degree in Applied Physics and Computer Science and Samuel Porter, also pursuing his master’s degree in Applied Physics. I have interviewed both students and have asked them to share their thoughts and experiences. My hope is to inspire perspective students looking to explore research opportunities or perhaps persuade them to consider this topic of research for themselves.

Samuel Porter.

1. How did you decide to take part in student research? How did you begin working with Dr. DeJong?

“As a graduate student I decided to take the route of writing a thesis to complete the graduate program and earn a master’s degree. I felt that by doing research and writing a thesis I would be better prepared for future careers and what I will be required to do. I also liked the idea of doing new research and trying to answer questions that either had not yet been answered or were still unresolved and being able to contribute to new ideas.
When I set out to find a topic to research as well as an advisor, I went around and talked to various professors about what kind of research they were doing and what kind of opportunities they might have for me to participate. I decided to work with Dr. DeJong because the topic of her research was related to space which is something I find fascinating and I believed I would enjoy it the most.”

2. How would you describe your experience? What is your job on the research team or rather what do you spend your time doing?

“I started off by reading a lot of papers and books about space weather and Earth’s magnetosphere so that I would be able to better understand things that were related to what I would be researching. Now, I am writing codes to analyze data to look for connections between different things and drawing conclusions about the results and what they mean. I find it enjoyable to try and come up with new ideas and ways to look at data and to be able to see and understand the results of those ideas, especially when they provide good results.”

3. Do you have any advice or comments for others who may want to take part in student research?

“My advice to any students that want to take part in research is to simply talk to your professors and ask them about what type of research they’re doing and if there is any way you can help. The professors are more than happy to have the help and at the same time, help students grow in their knowledge and abilities. If you want to participate, you should also be ready to do a lot of independent studying to learn about what you’re doing and to be pushed to expand your abilities.”

Jameson Horn:

1. “I decided to take part in student research because it interested me and I believe that it is a great way to gain experience in the fields that I see myself working in later in life. I had expressed my desire to conduct student research with some members of the PCSE department, primarily in a way the combines physics with computer science, and was eventually contacted to see if I would like to work with Dr. DeJong on her research. I, of course, eagerly accepted.”

2. “My experience working with Dr. DeJong has been terrific. My role in the research has primarily been to refurbish and augment a program developed by Dr. DeJong that removes dayglow (sunlight) from satellite images of the aurora so that accurate data can be taken from the aurora throughout the year as the amount of dayglow changes.This experience has been great for me and it is just what I was looking for. It perfectly mixes physics with computer science. This internship has actually grown into my senior physics capstone and could become a possible thesis project for my computer science master’s degree.”

3. “My advice for any students looking to take part in student research is to go out and seek opportunities! Ask the professors of the PCSE department if they or a colleague have a project that they could use your help on or search for student research opportunities outside of CNU. Pizza My Mind is an excellent place to do so.”

Be sure to talk to professors in your field if you would like to know more about research opportunities.

Unmanned Aerial Systems Team @ CNU

UAS Team members building the competition aircraft

The Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Team was founded four years ago in a small dorm room in Warwick River Hall by PCSE majors Austin Suhler and Jake Tarren who were soon after joined by another computer engineering student, Nigel Armstrong. Since then the team has grown significantly. They have moved into a dedicated lab in Luter Hall, have added 20 members, and for three years in a row, they have competed successfully in the international Student UAS competition hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

Austin Suhler retrieving the practice drone model after flight

What is the UAS Team about?

The team’s vision probably says it best: “To inspire and educate future leaders in Unmanned Aerial Systems.”

The UAS team is a group of students who are interested in all aspects of unmanned aircrafts – technical as well as non-technical. As a team, they have organized themselves in several subgroups each focusing on important components of the overall project. The Payload Team, for example, deals with the hardware that goes inside the drone, while the Flight Team makes sure that the aircraft is still aerodynamic and operational after equipment is added. This team also flies the aircraft. Other subteams include the Software Team, which writes the code for the drone to fly autonomously, and the Cyber Security Team, which secures any networks and wireless links that are used during competition. The team also includes students who are interested in marketing and fundraising, which both are quite important for the long-term sustainability of the team.

In order to do well at the competitions, the students meet regularly throughout the year to learn about the technologies and work on the various components of their unmanned system. During the spring semester, as soon as the weather allows it, the team spends most Saturdays at a flying field in Suffolk, Virginia to practice flying and to perform systems tests. These ‘field trips’ are not only a great opportunity to learn how to fly drones, but also to hang out with other team members. In fact, most team members will agree that going to the flight field is one of the highlights of being in the club.

The UAS Team in the 2016 competition

Every June the UAS team competes in the AUVSI Student UAS competition, which is held at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

According to the official rule book, the competition “is designed to foster interest in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), stimulate interest in UAS technologies and careers, and to engage students in a challenging UAS mission. The competition requires students to design, integrate, report on, and demonstrate a UAS capable of autonomous flight and navigation, remote sensing via onboard payload sensors, and execution of a specific set of tasks. […] The competition has three major elements: the Technical Design Paper, the Flight Readiness Review Presentation, and the Mission Demonstration. The paper details a team’s UAS design. The presentation details the team’s testing and preparedness for the competition. The demonstration simulates a mission in which the UAS and team is evaluated. The mission consists of autonomous flight, obstacle avoidance, object detection, and air delivery.”

What are the benefits from being on the UAS team?

Apart from having fun and learning tons of relevant knowledge, being a team member can have ‘direct consequences’ when it comes to jobs and internships. Many employers, also outside the UAS field, are thoroughly impressed to see students being engaged in a club like this, learning about tools and technologies in one of the hottest R&D fields around, and solving real-world engineering challenges.

Several students have received internships or job offers because of their involvement with the team. Take for example Davis Catherman, the team captain. Due to his experience with the UAS team, he was offered an internship at NASA where he joined a team of researchers in the UAS sector. Another great example is Sadie Rynestad, who was recruited as an intern by DroniCar, a NASA spin-off in York County, which develops unmanned solar airship systems.

How can you join the team?

The team is always accepting new members. If you are interested in any aspect of UASs, contact Davis Catherman at  Also, you can always stop by and take a peak in the UAS lab in Luter 242 to see what the team is up to!


What You Missed at Pizza My Mind

Hello Captain’s! Back by popular demand was iDTech for Pizza My Mind. Our presenter, Mark Moreno did a fantastic job outlining opportunities that add a fun and positive experience for students who are looking to enhance and practice their technical skills.

iDTech is the world’s largest summer technology camp for kids ages 6 to 18. The company was started in 1999, in a studio above a garage overlooking Silicon Valley, California. When they first started, they had a total of 280 students enrolled over the entire summer. Today, tens of thousands of kids and teens attend each season. This company went from 4 locations to now being in 29 states and even being in two other countries.

Students asking more questions about iDTech.


The goal of iDTech is to get kids exposed to the STEM field and show the importance of higher education. Their mission is “to develop and deliver the highest quality, most inspiring, and inventive technology experiences to the next generation of visionaries—one student at a time.”

iDTech has been voted #1 in work place environment seven years running by Bay Area News Group and recruits top talent from universities like Caltech, RIT, Stanford and CNU!! If you missed this seminar and would like more information, go to