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Graduate student Thomas Key heads to Brazil with Boren Fellowship

Drew Deguchi
April 24, 2023

A&A grad student Key will head to Brazil to work on small satellites to aid environmental conservation.

Thomas Key headshot

Thomas Key, Boren Fellow

A&A graduate student, Thomas Key, will be working on a satellite to keep an eye on deforestation in Brazil through a prestigious Boren Fellowship. While in Brazil from June through January, Key reports he will “work with open-source tools and data from various satellites to work on improving the design process for earth-observing satellites and other small satellites in low earth orbit.” These satellites make it easier to identify deforestation, understand impacts of wildfires and hurricanes, and boost feedback that helps fight climate-change.

The Boren Fellowships, funded by the National Security Education Program, sends students to various world regions that are critical to U.S. interests to do research in their prospective fields while studying a new language. Key will be based out of the University of São Paulo and will be studying Portuguese.

Key has engineering experience with A&A’s Kirsten Wind Tunnel and NASA's Transonic Dynamics Tunnel, roles that included collaboration with various countries on projects in academia and industry. He hopes to adapt the skills learned here to his work in Brazil. His educational background also includes spacecraft control systems that are similar to what is found on the Brazilian satellite, Amazônia-1.

Key chose Brazil because the development of collaborations between NASA and the Brazilian Space Agency is critically important to the way that the United States will move forward into the future in space and on a diplomatic front with Brazil and South America. He says, “I see great potential for a space-age partnership between the two countries, and I’m excited for the opportunity to be part of an ever improving network of space agencies.”