STEM Shoutout: Dr. Jaime Stearns

Associated professor at UNM researches better ways to track satellites with the Air Force Research Lab

Dr. Jaime Stearns, associated professor of chemistry and chemical biology at UNM, works for the Air Force Research Lab to find better ways to track satellites as space gets more crowded.

“There is so much opportunity for nations and companies to do cool things in space, but from the Air Force point of view, we need the ability to keep track of all these objects, make sure they don’t run into each other, and make sure people are following established norms of behavior…It is really exciting to think that we are laying the foundations now for the peaceful, prosperous use of the full cis-lunar volume,” Stearns said.

Stearns’ specific role in the research is to help with the long-term strategic vision for the Air Force Research Lab Space Vehicles Directorate in the area of space situational awareness. She works with Air Force space operators to assess issues that they have, then works with chemists, physicists, astrodynamicists, and aerospace engineers to come up with solutions to these problems.

“I try to identify the important, hard problems that are coming in the next decade, and then turn all those smart people loose to solve them,” Stearns said.

Through this process, Stearns hopes to establish better ways to address location and situational awareness in space. 

“Everyone in the Air Force is talking about space. We might have a Space Force soon. I feel like the work we are doing is building important future capability for whatever that organization is, and making sure the U.S. is a world leader in all things space,” Stearns said.