UVA’s New John Mather Nobel Fellow Wants to Design Alien Habitats



Avery Walters, a third-year civil engineering student at the University of Virginia, designed a passive cooling Cambodian farm school, a rapidly deployable shelter for the displaced, created 3D models of Soviet spacecraft, and is currently working on intelligent HVAC control. system that manages indoor air quality and energy consumption as its flagship project.

He can add a John Mather Nobel Fellowship to his list of accomplishments.

Walters, whose studies focus on civil engineering with a focus on the environment and water resources, will use the funds to create a network.

The John Mather Nobel Fellowship allows me to attend professional conferences, like the American Geophysical Union meeting this fall in New Orleans, where I can meet professors and researchers from institutions around the world, ”he said. Walters said. II’m a young engineer, so opportunities like this can dramatically shape my journey. Also, since Ienrolling in graduate programs, attending conferences like this allows me to get to know potential advisors.

Established in 2008 by the John and Jane Mather Foundation for Science and the Arts, the John Mather Nobel Fellowship program is awarded to interns who have demonstrated high academic achievement as well as a keen interest in space. and the Goddard Space Flight Center. The recipients will meet John C. Mather, Principal Astrophysicist, Goddard Fellow and Nobel Laureate, as well as other distinguished personalities.

Walters, of Williamsburg, said receiving the scholarship helps him stand out as a candidate for future work with NASA. Walters previously completed an internship at Goddard Space Flight Center, where he created 3D models of Soviet spacecraft.

These renderings contribute to NASAs historical archives and its greater mission to share information with the public, ”said Walters. For missions of Soviet origin, like Venera, information is more difficult to find, but the demand for visuals persists. These renderings use the few recordings available to us to produce crisp, clear renditions of historic spacecraft. “

The John Mather Nobel Scholarship is open to current NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center undergraduate and graduate trainee students.

I am very confident that Avery will accomplish great things in life, ”said Venkataraman Lakshmi, a professor in the Department of Engineering Systems and the Environment who previously worked as a researcher at Goddard. He’s really interested in planning habitats on other planets. This would involve minimalist construction, lightweight materials and sustainable energy sources. I think he’s definitely going to be an innovator – maybe an inventor – because I see he’s so interested in creating things. He will go to graduate school but, as is the case with students and young people who have so much intuition, he may not even need graduate school to make an invention.

Walters also worked with Earl Mark, an associate professor at the School of Architecture, to design a rapidly deployable fabric structure for the displaced. Walters, who has worked on structural design and analysis, consulted with Jose P. Gomez, senior lecturer in the Department of Engineering Systems and the Environment. The final structural design concept included a tensile fabric-skin structure and aluminum truss elements acting to support the structure.

Avery quickly acquired fundamental skills in structural modeling and software applications, ”said Gomez. He is an exceptionally gifted student, as clearly evidenced by his academic performance to date. What really impresses me even more than his intellect are his character traits of maturity, curiosity and sincerity. I have been teaching for over 35 years and Avery is as good a youngster as I have ever been.

Walters said his Goddard mentors told him his work at architectural school helped him complete his internship with the space agency.

Teresa Culver, Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Systems and the Environment and Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies, was Walteradvisor since arriving at engineering school and currently teaches in a stormwater management course. She sees him as an active and engaged student.

Avery is both a planner and deeply curious, ”Culver said. His level of genuine interest in learning about the world and engineering is extraordinary. His scientific curiosity is more like a doctoral student than an undergraduate student. At this point in his life, his biggest challenge seems to be where to focus his efforts. … We created a curriculum for Avery to graduate in three years, but it’s clearly difficult for him to give up all these interesting courses that he might have taken otherwise. He is an A-level student, although he often takes a high credit load.

In addition to being a motivated student, Culver said Walters is a very nice young man.

In the spring of 2021, my teaching assistant and I moved our environmental engineering lab outside to maximize pandemic safety, ”Culver said. This required transporting instruments and furniture in and out of the downstairs laboratory for each experiment. Avery would always volunteer to help, even if he was just passing by.

Walters, a Rodman Fellow, has attended the GK Chesterton Society, an academic society for conducting theological and literary discussions, and Kinetic Sound, which offers soloist / chamber performances to large groups. A graduate of Lafayette High School, Walters is currently applying for a doctorate. engineering programs, but is also exploring professional opportunities in engineering.

Even when he works close to home, Walters thinks of distant worlds.

My undergraduate engineering project will focus on developing an intelligent HVAC control system that manages indoor air quality and energy consumption, ”Walters said. This struck me as particularly interesting because of its implications for the design of alien habitats, not to mention its relevance to issues such as the design of healthy buildings and climate change mitigation here on Earth.



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