Science & Technology

Big Ideas: USU Blanding Scholar Jullian Crank Explores 'Out of this World' Science

By Mary-Ann Muffoletto |

USU Blanding scholar Jullian Crank, left, and Computer Science faculty mentor Soukaina Filali Boubrahimi discuss space weather. Crank is among nine students participating in USU's four-week Native American Summer Mentorship Program in Logan.

Utah State University Blanding student Jullian Crank is building an impressive resume in her chosen field of study, which is astronomy and planetary science. As a student at Utah’s Monument Valley High School, from which she graduated in 2021, the Utah Sterling Scholar participated in a NASA-sponsored program that allowed her and classmates to remotely control a CalTech telescope.

“We were studying a black hole and watching to see if it swallowed anything up,” she says.

Crank is among nine USU Blanding scholars who’ve traveled to Logan to participate in the university’s 2022 Native American Summer Mentorship Program. During their four-week stay, which started June 4, the students have participated in campus tours, team-building activities including the USU Ropes Course, as well as research projects ranging from Diné language revitalization to tree ring chronology and use of artificial intelligence to promote bee conservation.

During her Logan stay, Crank has explored how an environmentally harmful greenhouse gas — carbon dioxide — could be transformed into clean energy with USU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty mentor Yi Rao.

“He guided me in use of spectroscopic tools he and his lab members are developing to explore conversion of carbon dioxide into fuels at photoelectrode-electrolyte interfaces,” Crank says. “I haven’t studied a lot of chemistry yet, so this project introduced me to a lot of new concepts and ways of thinking.”

She’s also been learning about space weather and how machine learning can be used to predict this phenomenon, with USU Department of Computer Science faculty mentor Soukaina Filali Boubrahimi.

“Dr. Filali Boubrahimi told me about a geomagnetic storm in 1989 that knocked out Québec’s power grid for hours,” Crank says. “Solar flares and coronal mass ejections can cause these kinds of storms, which affect satellites and cause a lot of problems for people.”

Keeping satellites, on which we’re all dependent for communications, navigation, security and more, operational and in orbit is important, she says.

“I’ve been learning about the magnetic fields around the Earth that protect it from solar radiation, as well as the importance of the L1 point for many satellites, which keeps them in a fuel-efficient orbit,” Crank says. “Emissions from the Sun can disrupt those fields and orbits.”

With Filali Boubrahimi, Crank is studying use of combined physics and machine learning-based models to predict solar energetic particle events, with the aim of protecting satellites, space vehicles including the International Space Station, astronauts, as well as critical operations on Earth.

“Before I came to Logan, I didn’t imagine conducting research with a computer scientist or a chemist,” she says. “This program has showed me how different disciplines interact and work together. I didn’t realize how ‘big’ science is. It’s making me feel indecisive about my major, but also excited about new possibilities.”

Crank and her fellow NASMP participants will share their research Tuesday, June 14, from 9-10:30 a.m. in Old Main, Room 121. All are welcome.

“I’ve enjoyed being here,” says Crank, who’s explored campus on her skateboard and Logan using the zero-fare Cache Valley Transit District bus system with new friends. “We’ve had a lot of activities to keep us busy, but I’ve liked the independence of being able to do things on our own, too.”


Mary-Ann Muffoletto
Public Relations Specialist
College of Science


Hannah Wilson
Lead Facilitator
Native American Summer Mentorship Program


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