This story originally appeared in the Hub.

Each year Space@Hopkins awards seed grants to enable Johns Hopkins researchers to test and develop new ideas that enhance their ability to obtain external funding. For 2021 Space@Hopkins will fund five teams representing the Applied Physics Laboratory, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, and the Whiting School of Engineering.

ECE Associate Professor Susanna Thon is a member of one of the groups that received new seed grants. She is working with Radamés JB Cordero and Arturo Casadevall, both of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health’s Molecular Microbiology & Immunology Department, on a project titled “Melanin in space: radiation shielding and stability of a melanin biomaterial outside the International Space Station.”

Our team, led by researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, is working on using melanin, a natural sunscreen, as a lightweight radiation-shielding material for space applications,” Thon said. “My group will perform optical measurements on melanin samples before and after a trip to the International Space Station to evaluate their effectiveness at protecting astronauts and equipment from radiation in space.”

The five projects awarded new seed grants are:

“Melanin in space: radiation shielding and stability of a melanin biomaterial outside the International Space Station”
+ PI: Radamés JB Cordero (JHSPH: Molecular Microbiology & Immunology)
+ Co-Is: Arturo Casadevall (JHSPH: Molecular Microbiology & Immunology); Susanna M. Thon (WSE: Electrical & Computer Engineering)

“Nanostructured Thermoelectric Ratchets for Extreme Cosmic Sensing”
+ PI: Howard E. Katz (WSE: Materials Science & Engineering)
+ Co-I: Thomas J. Kempa (KSAS: Chemistry)

“Simulation of multi-legged robot locomotor transitions to traverse rocky Martian terrain”
+ PI: Chen Li (WSE: Mechanical Engineering)
+ Co-I: Kevin Lewis (KSAS: Earth & Planetary Sciences)

“Bio-filtration and Enrichment Module for In Situ Planetary Analysis”
+ PI: Tessa Van Volkenburg (APL: Research & Exploratory Development)
+ Co-I: Kate Craft (APL: Space Exploration Sector)

“Space-borne measurements of air pollution within cities”
+ PI: Darryn Waugh (KSAS: Earth and Planetary Sciences)
+ Co-Is: William H. Swartz (APL: Space Exploration Sector); Kirsten Koehler (JHSPH: Environmental Health & Engineering); Peter DeCarlo (WSE: Environmental Health & Engineering)

Since 2016 Space@Hopkins has served as an umbrella organization to connect civilian space research across all Johns Hopkins divisions. All Space@Hopkins seed grants provide undergraduate research opportunities as a program requirement.

Applications for the next round of Space@Hopkins seed grants will open during the spring 2022 semester. For additional information, contact the Space@Hopkins Space Fellow, Carolina Núñez, at [email protected].

Further information about Space@Hopkins can be found on its website​.