Undergraduate Research Scholar Spotlight – Tyler Behm

By Chrystina Rago

Behm during his visit to Rice. He is standing at the same podium JFK gave his "Go to the Moon" speech.
Behm during his visit to Rice. He is standing at the same podium JFK gave his “Go to the Moon” speech.

Recent graduate in physics and mathematics and Goldwater Scholar, Tyler Behm, knows his way around a laboratory.  Behm has been involved in undergraduate research since 2009.  His research has taken him across the nation and world to places like the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics REU program to the National Solar Observatory to the Astronomical Instrumentation Conference in Amsterdam. 

Behm’s extensive undergraduate research experience led me to contact him to learn more about how he got involved in research and what his future holds.

Where are you from?

I’m from Lawton, OK.

Tell me about your undergraduate research and how it led you to Amsterdam?

My work with Texas A&M Astronomy Professor Dr. DePoy focused on index-matching fluids. These fluids bend light exactly like glass. This property makes them useful because we can fill the gaps between glass lenses with index-matching fluids to improve image quality.

Unfortunately, there have been documented cases of these fluids corroding telescopes. Although this does not compromise the telescope’s structural integrity, suspended corrosion residue makes the telescope blind to ultraviolet light and does millions of dollars of damage.

For my thesis, I tested different index-matching fluids and telescope materials to see if corrosion would occur. I presented my results in July 2012 at the Amsterdam Astronomical Instrumentation Conference.

The whole experience taught me that research is more than just the scientific method. Research requires many leadership skills like time management, budgeting, and networking. Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many industry companies at the conference would generously pay for research talent.

What is your next step after college?

I’ve been accepted to Yale, Rice, Boston University, University of Arizona, University of Hawaii, and University of Colorado. I don’t know which one I will attend. I am visiting four of them and will negotiate my financial offer before making a decision.

Who do you look up to most in your field?

I look up to my advisers the most. They have all done so much to help me.

Where do you hope to be in ten year?

In ten years, I hope to have completed my PhD in solar astronomy. I want to find a steady career job as an observatory researcher or a space-weather analyst. 

What advice would you give to other undergraduates?

Getting involved in research during my freshman year was the best career move that I made in college. The skills that I acquired are invaluable for any job, even if it’s something completely unrelated to my research, like banking or management. Consequently, it looks good on my resume for any job.

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