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Space Research Institute for Discovery and Exploration

University of Cincinnati Space Research Institute for Discovery and Exploration aims to use the knowledge and competencies of our faculty, students, and partners to continue Ohio's extensive legacy of contributions to aviation and spaceflight.

Ohio is well known for its contributions in aviation and spaceflight. From the Dayton bicyclists, Wright Brothers, to spacefaring pioneers, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, Ohio has been at the forefront of aviation, aerospace, and space exploration. While these accolades and laurels have been earned through innovation, discovery, and raw talent, it is the academic prowess that has been at the forefront. As we move into new areas of exploration, including robotic and human-tended missions beyond Earth’s orbit and the rapidly growing commercial space industry, we will harness the knowledge and competencies of our faculty, students, and partners. We will build on the foundation laid before us to achieve effective and lasting contributions in this new paradigm.


In 2007, UC was the recipient of a substantial monetary gift with the intent to create a space exploration research effort as well as the establishment of two endowed chairs, the Thomas Jefferson Endowed Chair for Discovery and the Alan B. Shepard Endowed Chair for Exploration. Each of these chairs will further develop the intent of exploration and discovery through their own innovative research. In addition, this gift continues to inspire the next generation of scientist and engineers across multiple disciplines.

UC was also the academic setting for Neil Armstrong after he left NASA. As professor of aerospace engineering, he inspired the next generation of aerospace engineers.

Neil Armstrong and John Glenn at UC in 1986

Meet the Director

The University of Cincinnati recently named Professor Charles Doarn as the inaugural director of the institute. Professor Doarn holds degrees from The Ohio State University and the University of Dayton. He serves as a Research Professor in the Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences within the College of Medicine as is the Program Director of UC’s Master of Public Health. His full CV can viewed here.


Director’s Message –

I am delighted to support the UC Office of Research in this new endeavor. Most of my career has been at the intersection of medicine, public health, engineering and program management. While I remain fully engaged in medicine and public health with ties to NASA, it is my program management skills that I will apply to this new institute in helping shape the University of Cincinnati’s efforts in aerospace through mutually-beneficial partnerships with NASA’s aerospace engineering activities, the United States Air Force at Wright Patterson, industry partners, academia, and the State of Ohio in expanding our boundaries in education and discovery. Each new graduate of our engineering and applied sciences program as well as other disciplines within our vibrant urban campus will be better prepared as a result of their involvement with our faculty, collaborators, and this institute. Feel free to contact me by phone at (513) 558- 6148 or by email at

Faculty Chairs

Tomasz Stepinksi Portrait 

Tomasz Stepinski PhD

Thomas Jefferson Chair of Space Discovery

Beginning in 2010, Tomasz F. Stepinski, PhD established the Space Informatics Lab (SIL) in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Geography. SIL’s mission is to develop intelligent algorithms and online tools for fast and intuitive exploration of large spatial datasets that originated from remotely sensed planetary data, including Earth data. Such tools give the scientific community and the public the ability to get insights from the entirety of the data, not just from individual images. Examples include automated mapping of craters and valley networks (dry river networks) on Mars, automated generation of mineral maps from hyperspectral images of Mars, and a tool that performs Earth-wide search for sites with landscapes and climates similar to a user-provided query. Stepinski has a PhD in Applied Mathematics and MS in Astrophysics. Before arriving at UC he worked at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas. At UC he currently teaches a freshman-level course - “Exploring the Solar System” to introduce undergraduates to the topic of space exploration.

Click here to see contact information and publications


Ou Ma

Alan B Shepard Chair of Exploration

Ou Ma received his PhD degree from McGill University in 1991. He is currently serving as the Alan B Shepard Chair and Professor at University of Cincinnati (UC). His research interests are dynamics and control for aerospace robotics and autonomous systems. Dr. Ma is currently directing the Intelligent Robotics and Autonomous Systems (IRAS) Lab at UC, whose research portfolio includes multi-robot teaming as distributed systems, human-robot interaction and collaboration, satellite on-orbit services, and intelligent robotics for smart manufacturing. Prior to joining UC, Dr. Ma worked as an associate professor (2002-2008), professor (2008-2012), and Nakayama chair professor (2012-2017) at the New Mexico State University. From 1991 to 2002, Dr. Ma worked as an R&D lead and project engineer for MDA Robotics and Automation (then called Spar Aerospace or MDA Space Missions), participated in the operational support of the Space Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (also called Canadarm), and the development of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS or Canadarm2) and Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM or Dextre) for the International Space Station, leading the efforts of dynamics modeling and simulation-based verification and validation of these two space robots. Dr. Ma has also participated in the development of the European Proximity Operation Simulator (EPOS) for the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the development of the robotic arm for DARPA’s Orbital Express mission.

Click here to see contact information and publications

Space Research Institute Scholarship Program

The Institute is in the process of establishing a set of scholarships that will be available in the Fall of 2021. Stay tuned for additional information on this.


Potential Partners

Partnerships and collaborations are predicted on both need and interest. The following is a growing list of potential collaborators with which our faculty and students can become engaged with in pursuit of their academic training and potential future initiatives.

Publications (2015 - Present)

Our faculty and students participate in a wide variety of disciplines which result in scholarly output, including edited books, book chapters, peer-reviewed manuscripts, federal reports, perspectives and editorials. This output is listed here as a key reference list to current and future researchers. It also highlights the broad knowledge base ensconced here at UC that can serve as an enabling tool for collaboration.

Charles Doarn

  1. Book – Engineering, Life Sciences, and Health/Medicine Synergy in Aerospace Human Systems Integration. The Rosetta Stone Project. Editors. RS Williams and CR Doarn. NASA SP-2017-633. NASA, Washington DC. ISBN 978-1-62683-044-8.
  2. Book - Space Physiology and Medicine – from Evidence to Practice, 4th edition. Editors: A Nicogossian, CL Huntoon, RS Williams, CR Doarn, V Schneider, and JD Polk. 2016. Springer, New York. DOI-10.1007/978-1-4939-6652-3. ISBN 978-1-4939-6650-9 / e-book - ISBN 978-1-4939-6652-3

Ou Ma

  1. Sathyan A, Cohen K, Ma O. Genetic fuzzy based scalable system of distributed robots for a collaborative task. Front Robot AI. 2020;7:601243.
  2. Zhang L, Sun Y, Barth A, Ma O. Decentralized Control of Multi-Robot System in Cooperative Object Transportation Using Deep Reinforcement Learning. IEEE Access.2020;8:184109-184119.
  3. Alsamhi SH, Ma O, Ansari MS, Almalki F. Survey on Collaborative Smart Drones and Internet of Things for Improving Smartness of Smart Cities. IEEE Access. 2019;7:128125-128152.
  4. Sathyan A, Cohen K, Ma O. Comparison Between Genetic Fuzzy Methodology and Q-Learning for Collaborative Control Design. Int J Artificial Intelligence Appl. 2019;10(2):.
  5. Flores-Abad A, Zhang L, Zheng W, Ma O. Optimal Capture of a Tumbling Object in Orbit Using a Space Manipulator. J Intelligent Robotic Syst. 2017;86(2):199–211.
  6. Flores-Abad A, Ma O, Pham K, Ulrich S. A Review of Robotics Technologies for On-Orbit Services. Progr Aerosp Sci. 2014;68:1-26.
  7. Flores-Abad A, Ma O, Zheng W, Pham K. Optimal Controller for a Space Robot with Uncertainties in the Boundary Conditions. J Guidance Control Dynamics. 2014;37(6):2014-2017.
  8. Ma O, Flores-Abad A, Boge T. Use of industrial robots for hardware-in-the-loop simulation of satellite rendezvous and docking. Acta Astronautica. 2012;81(1):335-47.
  9. Lu Q, Ortega C, Ma O. Passive gravity compensation mechanisms: technologies and applications. Recent Patents on Engineering. 2011;5(1):32-44.
  10. Ma O, Dang H, Pham K. On-orbit identification of inertia properties of spacecraft using a robotic arm. J Guidance Control Dynamics. 2008;31(6):1761-771.

Tomasz Stepinski

  1. Saeedimoghaddam M, Stepinski TF. Multiplicative random cascade models of multifractal urban structures. Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications. 2021;569:125767.
  2. Stepinski TF, Dmowska A. Complexity in patterns of racial segregation. Chaos Solitons Fractals. 2020;140:110207.
  3. Saeedimoghaddam M, Stepinski TF, Dmowska A. Renyi’s spectra of urban form for different modalities of input data. Chaos Solitons Fractals. 2020;139:109995.
  4. Dmowska A, Stepinski TF, Nowosad J. Racial landscapes – a pattern-based, zoneless method for analysis and visualization of racial topography. Appl Geograph. 2020;122:102239.
  5. Nowosad J, Stepinski TF. Information theory as a consistent framework for quantification and classification of landscape patterns. Landscape Ecol. 2019;34(9):2091-101.
  6. Nowosad J, Stepinski TF, Netzel P. Global assessment and mapping of changes in mesoscale landscapes: 1992–2015. Int J Appl Earth Observ Geoinformat. 2019:78:332-40.
  7. Nowosad J, Stepinski TF. Spatial association between regionalizations using the information-theoretical V-measure. Int J Geographic Inform Sci. 2018;32(12):2386-401.
  8. Nowosad J, Stepinski TF. Towards machine ecoregionalization of Earth's landmass using pattern segmentation method. Int J Appl Earth Observ Geoinformat. 2018;69:110-18.
  9. Netzel P, Stepinski TF. (2018) Climate Similarity Search - GeoWeb Tool for Exploring Climate Variability. Bull Amer Meteor Soc. 2018;99(3):475-77.
  10. Nowosad J, Stepinski TF. Global inventory of landscape patterns and latent variables of landscape spatial configuration. Ecolog Indicat. 2018;89:159-67.