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Home > Press > Drs. Suzanne Smith and Janet Lumpp to lead NASA Kentucky Space Grant and EPSCoR Programs

Lead Institution Moves from Western Kentucky University to UK College of Engineering

Drs. Suzanne Smith and Janet Lumpp to lead NASA Kentucky Space Grant and EPSCoR Programs

Lexington, KY | Posted on December 21st, 2009

On Friday December 18, 2009, Dr. Suzanne Weaver Smith, Donald and Gertrude Lester Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Dr. Janet Lumpp, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, were announced as the new Director and Associate Director, respectively, of the NASA Kentucky Space Grant Consortium and NASA EPSCoR Programs. Drs. Smith and Lumpp will develop and administer funding for exploratory and infrastructure-building R&D, student fellowships and scholarships, and curriculum and teacher development. These programs will total more than $5M over the next five years and lead to increased opportunities in aeronautics and space R&D for Kentucky universities and industries.

NASA initiated the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, also known as Space Grant, in 1989. Space Grant is a national network of colleges and universities working to expand opportunities for Americans to understand and participate in NASA's aeronautics and space projects by supporting and enhancing science and engineering education, research and public outreach efforts. The consortia fund fellowships and scholarships for students pursuing careers in science, mathematics, engineering and technology, or STEM, as well as curriculum enhancement and faculty development. Member colleges and universities also administer pre-college and public service education projects in their states (

The Kentucky EPSCoR Program ( builds statewide infrastructure that promotes national research competitiveness. Kentucky NASA EPSCoR develops research capability in space-related science and technology, including contributions to economic development and the quality of life on earth. In tandem with the Kentucky Space Grant Consortium, Kentucky NASA EPSCoR promotes collaborations between Kentucky's researchers and students and the R&D programs of NASA's Research Centers and missions, building nationally competitive R&D enterprises for the future of the Commonwealth.

Dr. Suzanne Weaver Smith is a typical science and aerospace enthusiast - a "Rocket Girl" from West Virginia - who remembers being in first grade and cherishing pictures of the moon taken through a neighborhood telescope. The first moon landing followed after that, and since then she has been engaged with NASA's programs in many ways. Her 20 years working in the aerospace industry started with modeling and testing the Fine Guidance Electronics of the Hubble Space Telescope at Harris Corporation in 1980. She watched the first shuttle launch in 1981 from the beach at Cocoa Beach and heard the applause that swept down the beach and from hundreds of spectators on all the balconies. She has numerous NASA Center affiliations (including four summers at NASA Langley, several funded research projects and numerous NASA contacts from their work together on AIAA Technical Committees). Her PhD research at Virginia Tech on vibration-based damage detection for structures such as the International Space Station was supported by a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Program Fellowship. She has collaborated on space and aeronautics research projects and SBIRs with Boeing, Lockheed, ILC Dover, L-3 Communications, NextGen Aeronautics and several others in the aerospace industry. She was the lead advisor (with 7 other UK faculty) on the first KSGC workforce development project, BIG BLUE Mars Airplane, which provided hands-on, multidisciplinary, systems-thinking experience to over 300 university students in five years by developing four successful high-altitude experiments and conducting supporting research and over 400 low-altitude flight tests that demonstrated the feasibility of inflatable wings for extraterrestrial exploration. Technical developments of BIG BLUE have since been applied for DOD programs. She is currently developing three modules for the NASA Space Systems Engineering Course (distributed nationwide), adapting lectures from the undergraduate curriculum developed and taught at UK since 2004. Dr. Smith joined the UK faculty in 1990 and is an award-winning researcher and educator, with recognition as an NSF Young Investigator and two-time winner of the UK CoE Henry Mason Lutes Award for Engineering Education.

Dr. Janet K. Lumpp's research and teaching activities span a wide range of topics from lasers and microelectronics to K-12 education and carbon nanotubes. Dr. Lumpp conceived, developed and leads the Kentucky Electronics Education Project (KEEP), a program that uses microelectronics as a theme to connect core concepts in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Workshops for teachers and students have everyone building circuit boards using the same components and materials used in consumer electronics. Dr. Lumpp also leads Education and Public Outreach efforts for Kentucky Space, including high-altitude balloon-launch workshops for K-12 teachers among other inspiring educational experiences. Like Dr. Smith, Dr. Lumpp is a space enthusiast who was inspired by a space shuttle tile to pursue materials engineering. Designing material properties by tailoring the composition and fabrication method appealed to her creative engineering mind. Working as an undergraduate co-op at a Department of Energy lab, Argonne National Laboratory, introduced her to electronic ceramics for fuel cells, high temperature superconductors, and the research career opportunities available only by continuing through graduate school. As a Master's student she studied non-volatile memory thin films and then moved into laser micromachining as a PhD candidate. She worked for Rockwell International as a graduate student co-op in the Avionics division. Her research and interest in electronic materials and devices lead her to a faculty position in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Lumpp established the Laser Processing Laboratory in ECE and oversees the electronic assembly facilities. She recently concluded a four year research contract from the Army Research Lab on Advanced Carbon Nanotechnology with colleagues from across campus and collaborators at four other institutions. Dr. Lumpp has been the principal investigator on several KY NASA EPSCoR grants, KSGC awards and fellowships. She also has a strong funding record with the National Science Foundation through a Graduate Fellowship, Research Initiation Award, CAREER Award and as a faculty participant in the two NSF IGERT graduate training grants awarded to the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Suzanne Smith is married to Dr. Bill Smith, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Electrical and Computer Engineering. They have one 13-year-old daughter, Ginny. Dr. Janet Lumpp is married to Dr. James Lumpp, Jr., UK PI for Kentucky Space. They have three children, 11-year-old twins Annika and Ben, and 6-year-old Christina.


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