Looking to the stars

For three Physics/Astronomy students star-gazing will be more than just a pastime, it will be their research.   There is a rare opportunity this summer for students to become closely involved in a research project on campus with Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) support from Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR).  The program in Astronomical Instrumentation at Texas A&M’s Munnerlyn Astronomical Instrumentation Laboratory is designed to allow students a one of a kind chance to build and learn about astronomical instruments. Student researchers will interact with astronomers from around the world to understand how progress in scientific research is made.

For the summer, three undergraduate students will have the chance to work alongside astronomical instrumentation faculty, research staff and senior engineers to design, construct, test and deploy a variety of instruments to be used at astronomical observatories around the world.  This is an important program due to the lack of young people being trained in astronomical instrumentation.  “Texas A&M has a very unique opportunity to train young scientists and engineers in instrumentation now, so that future telescopes and instrumentation can be designed and maintained by these young people,” wrote Jennifer L. Marshall, Associate Research Scientist in the Physics and Astronomy Department and program leader for this SPUR program, in her proposal. 

Students participating in this program will work with Marshall and Dr. Daren DePoy, Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, in the Munnerlyn Astronomical Instrumentation Lab to assist in the design and construction of astronomical instruments.  Additionally, these students will be provided with the opportunity to visit the McDonald Observatory in West Texas, discuss their research with astronomy faculty and other students at weekly meetings, and present their research at a scientific poster session at the end of the summer. Students may also travel to the field to deploy the instruments they help design. 

Programs in undergraduate research allow students to develop their skills and passion for their field of study.  “The impact this kind of summer undergraduate research can have on a student’s undergraduate experience is immeasurable.  When students engage in academic research as undergraduates they have the opportunity of learning a lot about themselves – what they’re good at, what they like and dislike to work on, what they have really learned in their classes – and as a result are better able to make decisions about their future careers,” said Marshall.

Contact: Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu

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