Nate Olson

Title Graduate Research Assistant
Department Materials Science and Engineering

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Nate joined UIUC and Jessica Krogstad’s group in August of 2018. His work focuses on the development of highly porous ceramic materials (aerogels) for use as insulation in the extreme environments of aerospace applications. Prior to UIUC, Nate received his BS in chemical engineering from The Ohio State University in 2018. In addition to his PhD work, Nate is a member of the Illini Motorsports Formula SAE team and a Pathways Intern at NASA Johnson Space Center


BS Chemical Engineering, Summa Cum Laude with Honors Research Distinction (2018)


Development of thermally stable aerogels for aerospace applications

Research Areas & Previous Experience

At OSU, Nate worked in the Catalytic Material Design Group under the direction of Dr. Nicholas Brunelli where he focused on heterogeneous catalyst design, synthesis, and characterization. He studied the use of imogolite nanotubes as a catalyst for biomass conversion ( Nate also worked as an intern at NASA Glenn Research Center with Dr. Frances Hurwitz where he studied metal oxide aerogels for extreme environments.  

Nate currently studies aerogels that are stable to high temperatures for use as insulation in aerospace applications in collaboration with NASA Glenn Research Center. He develops novel formulations for metal oxide aerogels and characterizes the effects of heating on microstructure. By understanding the material properties that control sintering, densification, and cracking of the highly porous aerogel structure, thermally stable aerogels may be developed for use as insulation in aerospace applications.  

As a NASA Pathways Student Trainee at NASA Johnson Space Center, Nate has contributed towards the development of technologies to enable additive manufacturing of ablative heat shields to serve as thermal protection systems on re-entry capsules. He conducts material processing, 3D printing, and testing of the thermal, mechanical, and chemical behavior of novel heat shield materials.


ACerS Engineering Ceramics Division ICACC Student Travel Award (January 2020)
NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship ( NASA Grant Number 80NSSC18K1189)
Hamer Fellowship (2018)
OSU CBE Outstanding Undergraduate Award for Research Excellence (2018)
Ohio State Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship (2016)