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Lone Star College Students Take Giant Leap to Help NASA

Students conducting research

Using LSC-Montgomery’s High Performance Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (HPLC-MS) is LSC-CyFair’s first step in completing this design project for NASA. (From left to right: Kevin Dolan, Jesse Goerlich, Tania Ascosta (back of head), Professor Danny Kainer and Professor Yiheng Wang.

Three students from Lone Star College-CyFair traveled to
Lone Star College-Montgomery to use special equipment to conduct research for NASA.

The Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) selected the LSC-CyFair students to participate in the Spring 2016 Design Challenge. Their project tests the leak rate of lithium batteries.

“This research puts a little bit of pressure on us,” says student Kevin Dolan. “I did not expect to do any of this at community college.”

Student Tania Ascosta agrees. She says, “We are experiencing work on this project that we would normally be experiencing after graduation.”

The LSC-CyFair team was planning on using NASA’s equipment for the experiment, but the equipment stopped working and the team needed to find their own instruments to complete the research. LSC-CyFair Professor Dr. Yiheng Wang, the faculty advisor on the project, asked Dean Claire Phillips for help. “I totally meant it as a joke,” Wang says. “I wrote her an email: ‘With little to no hope I am checking with you, do we have Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) equipment in our chemistry lab?’ Dean Phillips wrote back, ‘We don’t, but I think Dr. Danny Kainer at LSC-Montgomery does.’”

Turns out Kainer had a different instrument, a High Performance Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (HPLC-MS). The LSC-CyFair team could use the HPLC-MS, but they had to modify their research method. 

Wang is an engineering professor at LSC-CyFair, while Kainer is a biotechnology professor at LSC-Montgomery. Kainer says, “We usually apply this instrumentation to biotech-type applications, but just because we do that doesn’t mean the machine can’t be used in other kinds of industries too. In this case, this is more of a material-science-type project, but the same type of instrumentation can be used.”

Using LSC-Montgomery’s HPLC-MS is LSC-CyFair’s first step in completing this design project for NASA. “This is just a tool,” says Wang. “It is going to give us data, then we have to move onto original research. The difficult part comes next. “

For more information on the engineering program at LSC-CyFair contact Dr. Yiheng Wang at Yiheng.Wang@lonestar.edu


For more information on the biotechnology program at LSC-Montgomery contact Dr. Danny Kainer at Daniel.B.Kainer@lonestar.edu


For more information on the Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) Spring 2016 Design Challenge visit tsgc.utexas.edu/challenge/teaminfo2.html


LSC-Montgomery is located at 3200 College Park Drive, one-half mile west of Interstate 45, between Conroe and The Woodlands. For more information about the college, call 936.273.7000, or visit www.LoneStar.edu/montgomery.


Lone Star College System has been opening doors to a better community for more than 40 years. Founded in 1973, LSCS remains steadfast in its commitment to student success and credential completion.  Today, with almost 83,000 students in credit classes, and a total enrollment of more than 95,000, Lone Star College System is the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area and one of the fastest-growing community college systems in the nation.  Stephen C. Head, Ph.D., is the chancellor of LSC, which consists of six colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, LSC-Tomball, and LSC-University Park, seven centers, LSC-University Center at Montgomery, LSC-University Center at University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. To learn more visit LoneStar.edu.