Aggie academics invade Amsterdam

Three Aggies were awarded travel funds from Honors Undergraduate Research to travel to Amsterdam this summer for the International Society of Optical Engineering Conference. Students spent a week in Amsterdam at the international conference, where they were exposed to new ideas and impressive discoveries, while presenting their own research to scholars in their field.

“Although we were seeing, listening, and talking about optical engineering from 8am to 8pm, there were more fascinating findings being presented every minute than we could possibly assimilate,” said Tyler Behm, senior physics major, 2011-2012 Undergraduate Research Scholar and 2010 Explorations author.

Not only did the students get to listen to other scientists, they got to present their own research at the international level.  “Presenting my research at an international conference was inspiring. I was not only representing my university but also my nation,” said Behm.

Behm’s research focused on index-matching fluids.  These are clear liquids that bend light in the same way glass does.  His experiments focused on determining whether or not these fluids are corrosive and therefore not suitable to use in telescopes.

Emily Martin, a recent physics graduate and 2011-2012 Undergraduate Research Scholar, shared her research on spectrograph design with conference participants.  This small, simple instrument is used with the Harlan J. Smith telescope at the McDonald Observatory in West Texas to study red objects in space.  It is being considered as a prototype for other instruments to study Dark Energy.

While allowing the students to share their projects with other scientists, the conference also exposed them to the universal language of science. “It was interesting to meet scientists from all over the world. It was even more exciting that though we come from different cultures we have the same passion for astronomy which draws us together,” said Martin.

With the experience the conference has given them, these students are ready to take on the field in the next chapter of their studies.  Martin will be starting her PhD in Astrophysics this fall at UCLA.  She hopes to specialize in astronomical instrumentation and continue her passion for research.  Behm will graduate from Texas A&M with a physics degree this December, then hopes to pursue a PhD in solar astronomy this fall, and continue his scientific career at a national observatory.

 Contact: Chrystina Rago,

  Photos via Steven Villaneuva


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