New Space Science Center Combines Efforts of Baylor, TSTC

Oct. 8, 1999

by LoAna Lopez

Baylor University and Texas State Technical College have combined their resources and expertise to create CASPER (Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research), one of the most prominent joint efforts between the two institutions of higher learning.

CASPER consists of a theory group and two experimental labs which specialize in various areas of research: the Astrophysics and Space Science Theory Group (ASSTG), the Hypervelocity Impacts and Dusty Plasmas Lab (HIDPL) and the Space Science Lab (SSL). Both the hypervelocity and space science labs reside in separate buildings on the TSTC campus, with the hypervelocity lab presently undergoing major renovations to meet specific power and cooling requirements. Experimental group members work at TSTC with technical support provided by TSTC faculty and students, while theory group participants work out of the physics department on the Baylor campus. Students from both areas often attend professional meetings such as Goddard Space Flight Center's supercomputer school or the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

Dr. Truell W. Hyde, director of CASPER and associate professor of physics at Baylor, said the center marks an exciting move for cooperative ventures between Baylor and TSTC.

"Combining the resources of Baylor and TSTC allows CASPER project team members from both schools to participate in research that would not be possible otherwise," said Hyde, who also is director of graduate studies in the physics department at Baylor. "It's truly a win-win situation for both of us."

The hypervelocity lab is a partnership between Baylor and TSTC whereby Baylor provides startup and annual operating funds while TSTC provides a 5,000 square foot building and ongoing full-time technical support staff.

Another means of support for CASPER and its efforts came recently when the U.S.

Department of Education awarded Baylor, TSTC and five other Waco entities a $6 million, five-year grant to help implement GEAR UP Waco (an acronym for Gaining Early Awareness and

Readiness for Undergraduate Programs). That grant is aimed at helping students -- particularly those labeled "at-risk" -- graduate from high school and prepare for college.

Two of the major components of CASPER's portion of the grant will be to create and produce a physics circus and hold a "Women in Physics" information session. These events are aimed at attracting future science majors among Waco area middle school students.

As for ongoing research at the center, Hyde said CASPER students currently are working on a hypervelocity impact resistance system whereby they study the effects of microscopic space particles that collide with orbiting satellites at high rates of speed. Such research could then lead to the creation of protective shields for such satellites, keeping them operational for longer periods of time.

In October, Hyde will travel to Washington D.C. to present a proposal for additional CASPER funding to the U.S. Department of Energy.

For more information about CASPER, contact Hyde at (254) 710-6767 or Carliss Hyde, director of external resource development at TSTC, at (254) 867-4843. Further information about CASPER is available on the Internet at www.baylor.edu/~CASPER/ .

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