Jackson State University grant will help explore potential use of bio-inspired construction materials on planets

(JACKSON, Miss.) — Dr. Kejun Wen, an assistant professor at Jackson State University in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been awarded a $28,741 grant from the Mississippi Space Grant Consortium (MSSGC) to explore the use of bio-inspired construction materials in space.

Dr. Kejun Wen

MSSGC is a statewide nonprofit organization of institutions of higher learning coordinated by the Mississippi Research Consortium and supported by NASA.

The focus of the grant is to study the effects of atmospheric pressure and other curing conditions with a new technology called microbial induced calcite precipitation (MICP). The concept is an environmentally friendly and cost-effective method to bind soil particles for strengthening and improving the ground.

The MICP project will explore the potential applications of bio-inspired construction materials on other planets. The technical objective of the proposed research project is to examine the effects of different reaction environments on mechanical behaviors of such bio-inspired materials.

Wen, who has spent eight years on MICP-related topics, said, “The implementation of this research project will enhance science and engineering education at JSU and broaden the participation of underrepresented groups.”

Affiliates of the Mississippi Space Grant Consortium sponsor a variety of information programs and conferences, summer instruction for teachers, and opportunities for fellowships and scholarships for graduate and undergraduate students in NASA-related STEM fields.

According to MSSGC, each campus program is guided by a faculty campus coordinator and a team of faculty mentors. Space Grant Programs are designed to match the needs of students with faculty strengths and departmental capabilities.

“This project will create opportunities for African American undergraduate and graduate students at JSU to participate in scientific research. Students in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) will appreciate the applications of classroom knowledge to real-life situations and gain hands-on experiences,” Wen said.

She added, “Faculty and staff in the Civil and Environmental Department are a warm family. I learned a lot from everyone and received a lot of help from affiliate colleges. The department chair of JSU’s Civil and Environmental Engineering, Dr. Farshad Amini, and CSET dean Dr. Wilbur Walters provided great suggestions and opportunities to support my research work. I could not be successful without the support of the entire department.”