Current Students

There are currently eight graduate students working with Professor Longuski and Dr. Saikia towards their doctoral degrees.

+ James W. Moore (doctoral distance student)
+ Robert Potter
+ Alec Mudek
Paul Witsberger
+ Jeffrey Pekosh
+ Archit Arora
Athul Pradeepkumar Girija
+ Rachana Agrawal
+ Weston Buchanon

Please see the Dissertations section for the list of alumni and their Ph.D. theses.

James W. Moore

James Moore holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Houston, an M.S. in Physics from the University of Houston, Clear Lake, and an M.S.E. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Purdue with a specialization in Astrodynamics and Space Applications. Jim is a full-time practicing engineer with Jacobs Technology at the NASA Johnson Space Center. His professional experience includes ten years as a Space Shuttle flight controller and entry trajectory designer. He is currently working on the parachute systems that will be used on NASA’s next human spacecraft.

Robert Potter

Robert Potter graduated with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2015. At Cal Poly, he participated in the Rose Float club as a member of the construction team. Robert joined the PolySat program in 2014 and became the mission manager for ExoCube, a 3U CubeSat that measured the density and composition of the exosphere.

Robert started at Purdue in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics in the fall of 2015 and received his M.S. degree in 2017. During his Master’s program he was the Chief Engineer for the Gemini Mars design competition in 2015-2016, which was a follow-on to the Inspiration Mars competition. In addition, Robert was one of two Principal Architects for a two-semester design course in 2016-2017 called “Human Journey to Mars” where he managed a class in the design of a mission architecture and feasibility study of a 50-person Mars research station.

Robert is currently a Ph.D. student at Purdue with research interests in interplanetary trajectory design, Earth-Mars cyclers, and human exploration architectures.

Contact Info:


  • Potter, R., Longuski, J., and Saikia, S., “Survey of Low-Thrust, Earth-Mars Cyclers” AAS 19-799, Portland, ME: 2019.
  • Potter, R., Saikia, S., and Longuski, J., “Leveraging NASA’s Lunar Gateway and Human Landing System for Low-Cost Mars Orbital Missions,” AAS 19-800, Portland, ME: 2019.
  • Agrawal, R., Potter, R., Saikia, S., and Longuski, J., “Enabling Sustainable Human Exploration of Mars via an Orbital Logistics Node,” AAS 19-918, Portland, ME: 2019.
  • Potter, R., Saikia, S., and Longuski, J., “Resilient Architecture Pathways to Establish and Operate a Pioneering Base on Mars,” IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, MT: 2018.
  • Rolley, R. J., Potter, R., Zusack, S., and Saikia, S. J., “Life Cycle Cost Estimation of Conceptual Human Spaceflight Architectures,” AIAA Space 2017 Conference, Orlando, FL: 2017.
  • Potter, R., Woolley, R., Nicholas, A., and Longuski, J., “Features and Characteristics of Earth-Mars Bacon Plots,” AAS 17-671, Stevenson, WA: 2017.
  • Aldrin, B., Witsberger, P., Potter, R., Millane, J., Saikia, S., Kaplinger, B., and Longuski, J., “Hyperbolic Abort Options for Human Missions to Mars,” AAS 17-648, Stevenson, WA: 2017.

Jeffrey Pekosh

Jeffrey received his B.S. in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2016. He began his M.S. in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics in the following fall, receiving it in December 2018. He is currently a PhD student at Purdue under Professor Longuski with a research focus on the missed-thrust problem.

Contact Info:

Paul Witsberger

Paul received his BS in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University in May 2016 and his MS in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue in May 2017. Paul has published 2 conference papers and 1 journal article with another of each submitted for review. His research interests include using machine learning to solve trajectory design and optimization problems, particularly the missed thrust problem. As an undergraduate, Paul was the project manager of the Purdue Hyperloop Design Team, the principal systems engineer for the Purdue Lunabotics team, and the president of the Purdue AIAA chapter.

Contact Info:

Relevant Publications

Witsberger and J. Longuski, “Interplanetary Trajectory Design Using a Recurrent Neural Network and Genetic Algorithm: Preliminary Results,” AAS 18-411, Snowbird, UT, 2018.

Aldrin, P. Witsberger, R. Potter, J. Millane, S. Saikia, B. Kaplinger, and J. Longuski, “Hyperbolic Abort Options for Human Missions to Mars,” AAS 17-648, Stevenson, WA, 2017.

Athul Pradeepkumar Girija

Athul is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University majoring in Astrodynamics. Athul holds an Integrated Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras. His field of research is aerocapture, mission design, and space systems engineering.

Contact Info: