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NMSU’s College of Engineering awarded NASA grant

Liang Sun, mechanical and aerospace engineering associate professor at New Mexico State University, has been awarded a nearly $6 million grant by NASA to solve key challenges facing the future of air travel.

According to NASA, this grant is awarded as part of an initiative that provides the academic community a chance to support NASA’s aeronautical research goals and provide students the ability to learn from real-world technical challenges.

“I am honored to receive this grant and excited about the opportunities it presents for advancing the field of aviation,” Sun said. “Our team is eager to get to work and tackle the challenges ahead.”

Sun will lead a team of researchers from George Washington University, the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, Argonne National Laboratory and Whisper Aero.

The team will gather data about current and projected Advanced Air Mobility operations to help produce models that could inform decisions on how the electric grid infrastructure can support future AAM activity, including the demand for aircraft charging stations.

“We are quite excited for Dr. Sun and this opportunity,” said Satyajayant “Jay” Misra, College of Engineering associate dean of research. “He worked diligently to receive this award, and his research is very promising.”

Researchers at NMSU will lead the technical efforts to conduct energy consumption modeling for AAM aircraft using real-world data; develop safe, energy-efficient and emission-aware AAM operational strategies to meet flight demand; and assess energy costs and emission impacts of AAM operations from an electric grid perspective.

Sun and his team also will pioneer efforts in education and workforce development for this project. They plan to develop interactive and interdisciplinary teaming strategies to aid in transferring research results to academic, industry and government stakeholders. Additionally, the team will support leadership and entrepreneurship training and research programs for students at both undergraduate and graduate levels to promote greater diversity in aeronautics by working with community colleges, minority-serving institutions and Hispanic-serving institutions.  

The NASA University Leadership Initiative is a competitive program that funds cutting-edge research in areas of national importance. The program is managed by the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate and is designed to encompass a broad range of technologies to meet the future needs of the aviation community, the nation and the world for safe, efficient, flexible and environmentally sustainable air transportation.

“Dr. Sun is an outstanding researcher and an asset to our university,” said Lakshmi Reddi, College of Engineering dean. “His selection for this prestigious grant is a testament to the quality of research being conducted at NMSU.”

For more information about Sun’s research and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, visit