Island University Student’s Summer Project Opens Door to Space Exploration

Published: September 12, 2014

Island University Student’s Summer Project Opens Door to Space Exploration

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Graduate student Akash Gaurav is flying high this summer, working on data analysis software that can analyze data from space as part of a program at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

The research group takes graduate interns for the summer and give students an opportunity to work with large data sets, like those used in NASA’s Voyager spacecraft, or any kind of science data set, often used in research for earth science, hydrology, and oceanography.

 “During this process I learned more about software construction, building, testing and release,” said Gaurav, a graduate computer science student. “I also learned to write programs, make efficient use of design patterns and appropriate use of an algorithm.”

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio is one of the oldest and largest independent, nonprofit, applied research and development organizations in the United States.

Gaurav’s mentor, Joey Mukherjee, is the program manager for the Southwest Data Display and Analysis System (SDDAS), a very large code base used to perform scientific data analysis and one of the SwRI’s programs. He said the main focus is on space physics analysis, typically for NASA or NASA contractors.

“Not everyone gets to be an astronaut, but having college students able to contribute in some small way to space research brings NASA closer to everyone,” Mukherjee said

Researchers with the Institute develop an ‘office suite’ for space physics data analysis.

 “It’s a collection of programs like a Microsoft Office that has multiple programs for doing office tasks, but our programs are for doing space physics data analysis,” Mukherjee said.

Gaurav spent his summer learning how to implement mobile development, more specifically to put the SDDAS on mobile devices. The SwRI team wants to expose their students to new technologies that the team would like to pursue further in the future.

 “I learned more about ongoing trends in software field,” he said. “And I enhanced my programming skills and my way of approaching a problem.”