SwRI, CU Partner To Boost Graduate Education, Real-World Collaboration

September 18, 2015 – Southwest Research Institute and the University of Colorado today announced a new collaboration enabling CU graduate students to contribute seamlessly to SwRI planetary and space science programs, bringing the institutions closer through their shared commitment to graduate education and research.

SwRI staff members have worked closely with CU graduate students almost since the inception of the SwRI Boulder office more than 20 years ago. However, the lack of a program to facilitate the process for working with students was somewhat challenging.

“CU has a strong graduate program in physics and the other sciences, but there wasn’t a good arrangement for matching and advising graduate student researchers to support SwRI space projects,” said Dr. David McComas, assistant vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division. He and Dr. Joel Parker, a director in SwRI’s Planetary Science Directorate, approached the university with a proposal to collaborate.

CU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, led by Director Dr. Daniel Baker, will oversee a program that allows graduate students from CU academic departments, particularly those in the sciences, to work on SwRI projects. Staff members at LASP and in SwRI’s Space Science and Engineering Division build spaceflight instruments and participate in space science studies, often working as colleagues on NASA-funded missions. Under the agreement, SwRI staff members can be appointed CU adjoint faculty members, enabling them to formally supervise students, serve as thesis advisors, and more easily staff SwRI research projects.

“CU has long valued its scientific and technical relationships with SwRI, especially between SwRI and LASP,” said Baker. “It is a great pleasure to have established a formal connection between SwRI, LASP, and CU academic departments to enhance the possibilities for even greater cooperation and advancement in graduate education.”

“Graduate students are an integral part of the amazing record of success in research that CU Boulder has enjoyed for many years,” said Dr. John Stevenson, dean of the CU Graduate School. “We are excited to see the new opportunities this collaboration with SwRI will provide for our students.”

The collaboration will help students gain real-world experience, enable the university to draw a broader range of students and faculty members, and energize SwRI’s technical programs with outstanding students.

“We’re helping to train the next generation of scientists. If we offer positive experiences for student researchers, they might one day become SwRI or LASP researchers,” said Parker. “That’s significant at a time when it is difficult to recruit graduates to work in the sciences.”

At this time, six students have been identified to transfer into the program from several academic departments, including astrophysical and planetary sciences, atmospheric and oceanic sciences, physics, aerospace, and engineering.

“These are scientists and engineers in the birth of their careers with an energy, fresh perspective, and curiosity that can bring a significant spark and helpful hands to any project,” Parker said.