Chien Recognized for Gravitational and Space Research and Mentoring

Alice Chien

March 14, 2022 - Yu-Chien (Alice) Chien, associate project scientist in mechanical and aerospace engineering, received the 2021 Thora W. Halstead Young Investigator Award from the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR) at their annual meeting held late last year. Chien was honored for her commitment to space research in microgravity combustion and her exceptional mentoring of researchers at all levels.

“This award was a complete surprise, and my academic colleagues kept asking me whether I knew about it ahead of time,” said Chien. The award honors young scientists who exemplify Halstead’s drive and enthusiasm for science and who have made significant contributions to gravitational and space research. Halstead was a NASA scientist and pioneer of space biology. The award is dedicated to her in recognition of the years she spent encouraging young scientists to enter the research field.

Chien’s contributions, as both researcher and mentor, are primarily in combustion science. She served as the lead project scientist from UCI remotely running an electric-field-and-flame-interaction experiment on the International Space Station as part of the Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiments suite of NASA studies. She also recently was awarded a grant from NASA to use data from its Physical Sciences Information system to improve numerical simulations of flames under the influence of electric fields in microgravity. She serves as an excellent spokesperson for microgravity science and has delivered a variety of invited talks, news reports and direct mentoring presentations to young researchers.

Her nominator noted Chien’s willingness to break boundaries, stretch the envelope of customary practice, and demand fairness and conscientious treatment of all – independent of race, gender, culture and ethnicity. “She recognizes the challenges of being the pathfinder across the male-dominated environment prevalent in engineering, and she accepts that struggle for herself and provides the support and encouragement for those in similar circumstances.”

– Lori Brandt