PhD Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) 2017
MS Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) 2012
BS Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) 2011

Prior to joining the faculty at WPI in August 2019, I was a Senior Scientist in the Hall Thruster Group at Busek Co. Inc., a Natick company focused on advanced in-space propulsion systems for military, government and commercial satellites.  My work at Busek included, for both research and commercial applications; electric thruster and hollow cathode development, propellant management and delivery systems, and plasma diagnostics. 

In my research I work to develop the next-generation electric propulsion systems which operate on alternative (to xenon) propellants, to increase mission envelopes and expand satellite capability for investigatory spacecraft. Spacecraft missions are inherently limited by the fraction of their mass which can be stored propellant. By changing the amount of propellant in the mass fraction associated with the propulsion system, one can dramatically increase the mission lifetime for a given launch mass. By changing the storage volume of the propellant, one can increase the volume available within a given spacecraft for other, mission-critical hardware. This can be achieved through the use of condensable propellants such as iodine. The complexity and reactivity of iodine make it a difficult propellant to use and characterize, which makes for an exciting area for research.  

As a member of the teaching faculty, education and pedagogy are a main focus. I received my BS, MS and PhD from WPI, which provides me a unique perspective from which to teach and stronger connections with students, as I have been in their seats. I emphasis the fundamental concepts of the material, while making links to industry and real-world problem solving.

Scholarly Work

Taillefer, Z., Blandino, J., Szabo, J. “Characterization of a Barium Oxide Cathode Operating on Xenon and Iodine Propellants,” Journal of Propulsion and Power, AIAA, Vol. 36, Number 4, July 2020.
Szabo, J., Byrne, L., Strain, M., Paintal, S., Sawyer, S., Yu, T., Kolencik, G., Hruby, V., Gray, T., Petters, D., Haag, T., Mackey, J., Taillefer, Z., “One Million Newton-Second Duration Test of a 600 Watt Hall Effect Thruster Fueled By Xenon”, Proceedings of the AIAA Propulsion and Energy 2020 Forum, August 24-28, 2020.
Taillefer, Z., Blandino, J., Szabo, J. “Characterization of the Near-Plume Region of a Laboratory Hollow Cathode Operating on Xenon and Iodine,” Proceedings of the 35th International Electric Propulsion Conference, Electric Rocket Propulsion Society, The Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, October 8-12, 2017.
Rand Lee, L., Robin, M., Taillefer, Z., Chiu, Y.,“C12A7 Electride Hollow Cathode Compatible with Iodine” 63rd JANNAF Propulsion Meeting (JPM)/Programmatic and Industrial Base(PIB)/47th Combustion (CS)/35th Airbreathing Propulsion (APS)/35th Exhaust Plume and Signatures/29th Propulsion Systems Hazards Joint Subcommittee Meeting,, Newport News, Virginia, USA, May 16-20, 2016.